evil is as evil does

esper

Member
greece - greek
Hi everybody! I'm finding it difficult to grasp the meaning of this little phrase: evil is as evil does. I did a little research online and found quite a few examples but still I can't really understand the meaning. Any help welcome! Oh, and does anybody know what does "sinicised" mean? It's something about the "sinicised world of a vietnamese scholar".
Greetings from Athens
esper
 
  • Aupick

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    The saying 'evil is as evil does' is a way of counteracting that tendency we have of dividing the world up into good and bad (or good and evil), and then forgiving the transgressions of those we consider good while condemning the crimes of those we consider bad (and being suspicious of their good deeds). When well-respected members of the community turn out to be child molesters, people used to (and still do) deny what they had done, and blame the victim instead; when CEOs defraud their companies' pension funds out of millions, people used to (and still do) make excuses for them, say that they were under stress and deserved the extra money anyway; and so on. As soon as a poor black woman on welfare shoplifts, on the other hand, people condemn her and say that justice must be done, because she has broken the law.

    Evil is as evil does basically means that evil is really a matter of how we behave, not who we are or what role we fill in society.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    I think the more usual expression is "Handsome is as handsome does."

    Meaning: judge people by their actions, not their appearance.

    I'm not sure about all your blame-shifting examples, Aupick.
    It seems that everyone has some reason for not being guilty.

    There's a court case on in Sydney at the moment where a barrister is arguing that his clients should get reduced sentences, because they had emigrated from a country with 'very traditional views' of women.
    The 3 brothers have been found guilty of 9 cases of pack rape.
     

    jaw444

    New Member
    English
    Sinicize means taking on Chinese characteristics, mainly cultural. Sino- is a prefix meaning Chinese. They used to talk about the Sino-Soviet dispute in the news in the 60s and 70s.
     

    Yurioshi

    New Member
    English
    In the movie "Forrest Gump", the main character repeatedly responds to the question, "What are you, stupid?" with his mother's saying of "Stupid is as stupid does".

    If you want to know whether someone is stupid, look to whether or not they behave stupidly.

    Likewise, if you want to determine whether of not someone is evil, look to their actions --- NOT their intentions. After all, from his own perspective, even Hitler had good intentions (for Germany and those he considered German, if no one else). Regardless of whether his ends were good or evil, he believed that his ends justified ANY means. The means matters.

    In other words, "Evil is as evil does" means the same as "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions".

    Not sure where Aupick is coming from.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    All these expressions follow a traditional pattern. The classic case is the proverb: 'Handsome is as handsome does'.
    Here, the word 'as' means 'who'. This is a traditional usage, now regarded as old-fashioned and non-standard.
    The sentence means: 'He is handsome who behaves handsomely'.
    The use of 'handsome' to mean 'handsomely' is also now regarded as old-fashioned and non-standard.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    All these expressions follow a traditional pattern. The classic case is the proverb: 'Handsome is as handsome does'.
    Here, the word 'as' means 'who'. This is a traditional usage, now regarded as old-fashioned and non-standard.
    The sentence means: 'He is handsome who behaves handsomely'.
    The use of 'handsome' to mean 'handsomely' is also now regarded as old-fashioned and non-standard.
    It's intriguing: I always interpreted 'handsome is as handsome does' slightly differently. I saw it as meaning "being handsome is not the be-all and end-all": in other words, that good looks are not enough. The idea that good actions are more important than good looks was secondary - indeed not really implicit at all.

    Did anyone else grow up understanding it this way, or was it just me? (The Forrest Gump "translation" of course made nonsense of my interpretation of it.).
     

    jmichaelm

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I saw it as meaning "being handsome is not the be-all and end-all": in other words, that good looks are not enough. The idea that good actions are more important than good looks was secondary...

    Going from "Inner beauty is more important than superficial beauty." to "All beauty is inner beauty." seems like a matter of degree rather than a whole separate idea.
     

    Man_from_India

    Senior Member
    India
    Many people from different part of the world had posted their views, and mentioned what they feel is natural and usual to them. I guess it is because those terms are usual in that particular region than the other terms. It's my opinion. I wish I am right.
     

    Yurioshi

    New Member
    English
    It's intriguing: I always interpreted 'handsome is as handsome does' slightly differently. I saw it as meaning "being handsome is not the be-all and end-all": in other words, that good looks are not enough. The idea that good actions are more important than good looks was secondary - indeed not really implicit at all.

    Did anyone else grow up understanding it this way, or was it just me? (The Forrest Gump "translation" of course made nonsense of my interpretation of it.).

    I think the problem is the definition of "handsome" that you've been using. The common modern usage of "handsome" is to mean "good-looking".

    As Wandle noted, the usage in this phrase is non-standard.

    For "handsome" my dictionary gives the following "marked by graciousness or generosity".

    For the phrase to make sense, you have to focus on the "gracious" part of that definition. That is, "polite", "decent", "seemly".

    So, the meaning of the phrase is really "to behave decently is to be decent". Pretty much the opposite of "evil is as evil does".
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    To me the phrase evil is as evil does does not make any sense at all. It looks like a matrix copy of the phrase decent is as decent does, which makes sense that a person can only be judged by their deeds. The one with evil does not make sense to me, personally. It would mean something like: you have to do evil things to prove your evilness.
     
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