They Are Not Ripe Yet

I used to think ‘Sour Grapes’ was just a metaphor. Now I’m not so sure. I blame it on an article in a European journal, obscurely titled “XYZ – Nondum Matura Es” The XYZ is irrelevant, you can substitute ‘Atomic powered trains” or “ESP as a communication tool”, that part makes no difference, it’s the inscrutable Latin of “Nondum Matura Es” that I didn’t understand. So, well, I looked it up, you know, with Google, Wiki et al, and it turns out it’s from one of Aesop’s fables, as translated by Phaedrus, a Romanized Macedonian who lived in the time of Jesus of Nazareth. You might know it as the Fox and the Grapes, and this is the translation, thanks to Gutenberg:

‘Urged by hunger, a Fox, leaping with all her might, tried to reach a cluster of grapes upon a lofty vine. When she found she could not reach them, she left them, saying: “They are not ripe yet, I don’t like to eat them while sour”. Those who disparage what they cannot perform, ought to apply this lesson to themselves’.

Ergo ‘Sour Grapes’, although the “Nondum matura es” refers to ‘They are not ripe yet” or not ready for efficient commercial use, such as atomic powered trains and ESP.

But I started to worry about the “Sour Grapes”. Yeh, OK, it’s a metaphor – to us. But not to the poor fox, she knew these as real grapes, not metaphorical. How can we explain this? OK, some call the whole story an allegory, which is an extended metaphor. but that’s not the end of Trust the psychiatrists, they have announced that this tale is a perfect example of cognitive dissonance. Say what? It appears that cognitive dissonance is the act of holding two conflicting or incompatible ideas simultaneously, and in order to reduce the misery of this state of affairs, the hero justifies the stand-off by an excuse. So, I want the grapes, I can’t have them, well, they are sour anyway. I FEEL BETTER.

Take your pick, metaphor, allegory, cognitive dissonance – me, I’m with the fox, I reckon the grapes were sour, so there.

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