Tall Poppy Syndrome

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more.

Tall poppy syndrome is a (usually) pejorative term used in most English speaking countries except the US. It describes a common social phenomenon when people who are more talented or have achieved more than their peers (so-called tall poppies, see the image on the right) are criticized, attacked, or resented by the others. Nonetheless, such behaviour is mostly irrational, as the following witty quote succinctly summarizes:

“You cannot strengthen one by weakening another; and you cannot add to the stature of a dwarf by cutting off the leg of a giant”
Benjamin Franklin Fairless

P.S. My special thanks goes to Mark Curran for pointing out this phenomenon to me. The picture of poppies is from Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0).

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.