Fly in the ointment
- We had a cookstove, beans, and plates; the fly in the ointment was the lack of a can opener.
- Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour. (Ecclesiastes 10:1)
For five centuries, 'a fly in the ointment' has meant a small defect that spoils something valuable or is a source of annoyance. The modern version thus suggests that something unpleasant may come or has come to light in a proposition or condition that is almost too pleasing; that there is something wrong hidden, unexpected somewhere.
This idiom has been used in the title of some books: The Fly in the Ointment: 70 Fascinating Commentaries on the Science of Everyday Life by Joseph A. Schwarcz, The Fly In The Ointment by V.S. Pritchett and The Fly in the Ointment by Alice Thomas Ellis.
- The Fly in the Ointment: 70 Fascinating Commentaries on the Science of Everyday Life by Joseph A. Schwarcz, Ecw Press, May 28, 2004.
- 2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings & Expressions from White Elephants to a Song and Dance by Charles Earle Funk (Galahad Book, New York, 1993
- Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).