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Suffer fools?

[ 2009-06-23 14:33]     字号 [] [] []  
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Suffer fools?Reader question:

In this sentence – (Kobe) Bryant doesn’t suffer fools, nor invest a moment in the wasting of his precious preparation – what does “Bryant doesn’t suffer fools” mean?

My comments:

It means he can’t tolerate mediocrity.

“Doesn’t suffer fools” is a cliché. It came from the Bible actually but first, definitions. If someone doesn’t suffer fools, it means he can’t bear (suffer) foolishness (fools) easily. In other words, they experience lots of pain (suffer) to put up with people who they think are stupid (or slow or simply inferior).

In other words, they can’t stand them – don’t have any patience with them.

Today, this saying is used almost exclusively in the negative. In the Christian Bible, where the phrase originates, it was used in the positive sense, albeit perhaps sarcastically (II Corinthians 11:19, King James Version):

For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.

“In the passage,” explains a post at Phrases.org.uk (May 06, 2002), “Paul is pointing out to the Corinthians that those who tolerate fools are themselves fools.”

Alright, here are media examples:

1. not suffer fools: Is authority—even God’s authority – to be obeyed without question? John Milton, the most famous “Christian” poet in the English language, has a definite answer.


Milton is perhaps the greatest, yet least-read and least-understood poet in English literature. He was not a stuffy Puritan with a heart of stone; rather, he was a learned and passionate revolutionary who demanded freedom of thought and freedom from political, religious, and social tyranny. Milton did not suffer fools, and he did not suffer others telling him what to do, what to think, or how to live. In this course, we will examine the ideas of the man who helped bring down a kingdom and behead a king, only later to write the great poetry of Satan, God, Adam, Eve, and the Fall of Man.

- Course description, Dr. Michael Bryson, Brysons.net.

2. not suffer fools gladly:

Lawyers who have argued cases before Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor call her “nasty,” “angry” and a “terror on the bench,” according to the current Almanac of the Federal Judiciary – a kind of Zagat’s guide to federal judges…

She does not suffer fools gladly,” said Kevin Russell, a partner for Howe & Russell P.C. who argued a case before Judge Sotomayor about respiratory ailments suffered by the men and women who cleaned up ground zero after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “I guess it is predictable that some of those fools would then complain about it.”

- Lawyers tag nominee as ‘terror on the bench’, Washington Times, May 29, 2009.

3. not suffer fools easily:

Harlan Ellison has the natural arrogance of a supremely talented autodidact. He does not suffer fools easily, and from his tight-rope walker’s point of view there are an awful lot of fools down there (another Ellison quote: “You are not entitled to your opinion! You are entitled to an informed opinion.”). His abrasive, unapologetic personality may alienate some viewers who don’t buy into his shtick. That’s OK. Harlan Ellison doesn’t care if you think he’s a mook. He wrote “Jeffty is Five” and you didn’t, bucko. What the hell more can you ask for? Tell me. Somebody please tell me.

- Theatrical Review of Dreams with Sharp Teeth, Dvdtown.com, August 1, 2008.



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


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