Pot calling the kettle black

fallacy regarding hypocrisy

The pot calling the kettle black is an informal fallacy also called Tu quoque.[1] Another name is appeal to hypocrisy.

It happens when a person is guilty of the very thing of which they accuse another.[2]

"Oho!" said the pot to the kettle;
"You are dirty and ugly and black!
Sure no one would think you were metal,
Except when you're given a crack".

"Not so! not so!" kettle said to the pot;
"'Tis your own dirty image you see;
For I am so clean – without blemish or blot –
That your blackness is mirrored in me".[3]

A fable, perhaps by Aesop, has a mother crab and its young, where the mother tells the child to walk straight, and is asked in return to demonstrate how that is done.[4]

A present-day example:

Peter: "It is morally wrong to use animals for food or clothing".
Bill: "But you are wearing a leather jacket and you have a roast beef sandwich in your hand! How can you say that using animals for food and clothing is wrong?" [5]

It is a fallacy because a person's actions or character do not affect the logic of the argument.


  1. Tu quoque is Latin for "you also". "tu quoque, n." Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2012. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  2. Bluedorn, Nathaniel (2002). The Fallacy Detective. p. 54. ISBN 0-9745315-0-2.
  3. "St Nicholas Magazine 3.4" (PDF). February 1876. p. 224. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-07-01. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  4. Folklore and Fable vol.XVII, New York 1909, p.30 [1]
  5. "Fallacy: ad hominem tu quoque". Nizkor project. Archived from the original on 12 September 2018. Retrieved 24 November 2015.