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honored more in the breach than the observance

English translation: bad custom, more honored when violated than when followed

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GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
English term or phrase:honored more in the breach than the observance
English translation:bad custom, more honored when violated than when followed
Entered by: Kim Metzger
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18:01 Dec 4, 2004
English to English translations [PRO]
Art/Literary - Poetry & Literature / Corporate structure
English term or phrase: honored more in the breach than the observance
Context:
A appoints B. Then B appoints C and also E. This simple sequence is currently honored more in the breach than the observance, out of ignorance on both sides.

Does this simply mean that the breach of sequence is much more common than the observance of the same? I'm confused... Thank you!
xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 19:04
broken more often than they were obeyed
Explanation:
Here, as often happens with this allusion, the great man's meaning is turned around: "Perhaps it is a saving grace of Russian politics these days that laws and orders are honored more in the breach than in the observance." What the writer meant was that the laws and orders were broken more often than they were obeyed. But Hamlet, who said it first, meant something else. When he described his stepfather's boozy carryings-on as a custom "more honored in the breach than the observance," he meant it was a bad custom, more honored when violated than when followed. Not the same thing, and the pretty phrase is usable in its original sense.

http://www.cjr.org/tools/lc/honored.asp
Selected response from:

Kim Metzger
Mexico
Local time: 19:04
Grading comment
Thank you so much, Kim. You covered it all. Thank you, David and Richard. I appreciate your help. I hate this "chose one" option:-)
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
5 +4The rule is more often broken than observed
David Knowles
4 +4Misquotation from Shakespeare
Richard Benham
4 +3broken more often than they were obeyed
Kim Metzger


Discussion entries: 2





  

Answers


3 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +4
The rule is more often broken than observed


Explanation:
The simple sequence is often not followed, because neither side realises it should be.

David Knowles
Local time: 01:04
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 72

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Neil Phillipson
3 mins

agree  Monica Colangelo: that's right. And it's in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Have a nice weekend, David.
4 mins

agree  Anna Maria Augustine at proZ.com
7 hrs

agree  Judith Kerman: Misquoted from Hamlet, actually - but it's standard stuff (as misquoted) in the US
21 hrs
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

4 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +3
broken more often than they were obeyed


Explanation:
Here, as often happens with this allusion, the great man's meaning is turned around: "Perhaps it is a saving grace of Russian politics these days that laws and orders are honored more in the breach than in the observance." What the writer meant was that the laws and orders were broken more often than they were obeyed. But Hamlet, who said it first, meant something else. When he described his stepfather's boozy carryings-on as a custom "more honored in the breach than the observance," he meant it was a bad custom, more honored when violated than when followed. Not the same thing, and the pretty phrase is usable in its original sense.

http://www.cjr.org/tools/lc/honored.asp

Kim Metzger
Mexico
Local time: 19:04
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 277
Grading comment
Thank you so much, Kim. You covered it all. Thank you, David and Richard. I appreciate your help. I hate this "chose one" option:-)

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Richard Benham: Hi there Kim. I have included the quotation with a little more context in my answer.
7 mins

agree  Madeleine MacRae Klintebo
18 mins

agree  Judith Kerman: exactly - and a nice explanation of the real meaning, Kim!
21 hrs
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7 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +4
Misquotation from Shakespeare


Explanation:
This is the original:
But to my mind, though I am native here
And to the manner born, it is a custom
More honoured in the breach than the observance.

The suggestion is that it would be better not to observe the custom. However, the phrase, or variants of it, have passed into popular usage with the sense you suggest, "more often breached than observed".


    Reference: http://www.yaelf.com/aueFAQ/mifmrhnrdnbrchthnb.shtml
Richard Benham
France
Local time: 02:04
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 24

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Madeleine MacRae Klintebo
15 mins
  -> Thanks Madeleine.

agree  KathyT: aaah, that takes me back to my high school days.....
9 hrs
  -> Thx.

agree  Refugio: exactly
10 hrs
  -> Thx.

agree  Judith Kerman
21 hrs
  -> Thx.
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Changes made by editors
Apr 22, 2005 - Changes made by Kim Metzger:
FieldBus/Financial » Art/Literary
Field (specific)Business/Commerce (general) » Poetry & Literature


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