Why do we say "In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king"?

Well-Known Expressions

In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king

Meaning:

Among incompetents, even mediocrity passes for brilliance

Background:

The first known reference to this proverb is in Why Come Ye Nat to Courte?, a poem by  Englishman John Skelton, published around 1522. The poem is one of a number in which he takes Cardinal Wolsey to task, with pithy lines such as these:

He is so ambicyous
So shamles, and so vicious
And so supersticyous
And so moche oblivious…

Some years before, Skelton had been appointed tutor to the future Henry VIII and was on good terms with Thomas Wolsey, but he ended up in prison later in his life, most likely having offended the, by then, very powerful Cardinal Wolsey. Not long after, Skelton retired from court and became rector of Diss, a town in the East of England, well away from the intrigue of the Tudor court.

Emasmus, who was acquainted with Skelton and his poetry, expressed a similar thought in "Adagia" a few years later: In regione caecorum rex est luscus (in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king).

Alphabetical list of expressions

Challenge yourself with BookBrowse Wordplays

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: American Histories
    American Histories
    by John E. Wideman
    In American Histories, a collection of 21 short stories, John Edgar Wideman draws America's present ...
  • Book Jacket: I Found My Tribe
    I Found My Tribe
    by Ruth Fitzmaurice
    Ruth O'Neill was only 28 when she married film director Simon Fitzmaurice in 2004. Changing her...
  • Book Jacket: The Art of the Wasted Day
    The Art of the Wasted Day
    by Patricia Hampl
    Patricia Hampl wants you to know that daydreaming is not a waste of a day. Nor is spending time ...
  • Book Jacket: Circe
    Circe
    by Madeline Miller
    Towards the end of Madeline Miller's novel Circe, the titular nymph is questioned by her son ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Girl Who Smiled Beads
    by Clemantine Wamariya

    A riveting story of dislocation, survival, and the power of stories to break or save us.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.