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the emperor's new clothes

the emperor's new clothes in Culture

“The Emperor's New Clothes” definition

A story by Hans Christian Andersen. An emperor hires two tailors who promise to make him a set of remarkable new clothes that will be invisible to anyone who is either incompetent or stupid. When the emperor goes to see his new clothes, he sees nothing at all — for the tailors are swindlers and there aren't any clothes. Afraid of being judged incompetent or stupid, the emperor pretends to be delighted with the new clothes and “wears” them in a grand parade through the town. Everyone else also pretends to see them, until a child yells out, “He hasn't got any clothes on!”

Note: People who point out the emptiness of the pretensions of powerful people and institutions are often compared to the child who says that the emperor has no clothes.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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