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Thread: Family silver

  1. #1

    Thumbs down Family silver

    Dear Teacher, grateful if you kindly explain the meaning of "to sell family silver". Thanks.

  2. Barb_D's Avatar
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    Re: Family silver

    What was the context? Someone sold something that had been in the family a long time and was of value, whether it's actually silver or used as a metaphor.

  3. #3

    Thumbs down Re: Family silver

    it is from the following news report:

    Peeved at DMRC(Delhi Metro Rail Corporation) chief E.Sreedharan's scathing remarks on the Hydrabad metro project, the Andhra Pradesh government has decided to file a defamation suit against him.
    Sreedharan has said:"Andhra Pradesh offered 269 acres of prime land to the BOT(build operate and transfer) operator, which would enable him to exploit more than 20 million square feet of commercial space. DMRC had never recommended this. This is what I had termed as selling the famly silver."
    "When we discovered that the Metro lines were altered and extended to areas where the successful BOT operator has extensive private land holdings - a Metro connection would enhance the market value of these plots four to five times - we began to feel that the tendering process was clearly not transparent and we withdrew from our role as prime consultants," he added.
    The state government found the "family silver" remark insulting and told him to "tender an unconditional apology for the false and baseless allegations".

    • Join Date: Oct 2006
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    Re: Family silver

    It is an idiom meaning that you are selling for your own benefit items of value that do not belong to you as an individual, but to the larger group such as the family or the country.
    In this case, the government of Andhra Pradesh are resenting an implication that there was some form of personal interest involved in selling public land to a developer.

  4. BobK's Avatar
    Harmless drudge
    English Teacher
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    Re: Family silver

    The first time I heard this idiom used was in Lord Stockton's criticism of Margaret Thatcher's policy of privatization: see Harold Macmillan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and scroll down to 'Retirement and death (1963-1986)' (he was speaking in the House of Lords, many years after the high point of his political career).

    This may not have been the first use, but it may have been - it was used in the same sort of context.


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