Boil the frog is a metaphor based on a story about a frog. If you put the frog directly into hot water it will immediately escape. If you put it in temperate water and slowly heat it to a boil, the frog will not escape. The metaphor is that people may accept negative change that occurs slowly that they would strongly oppose if it occurred suddenly. The following are hypothetical examples.
If a city transitioned from fresh air to polluted air overnight, there might be outrage at the cause. When this transition occurs over decades, opposition might potentially be muted.
Quality of LifeIf a university system doubled fees overnight, there would likely be opposition. If they gradually double fees over five years, it may be accepted.
HealthDramatic increases in the prevalence of diseases such as diabetes that occur over decades might be taken more seriously if they occurred instantaneously.
NotesIt is not true that frogs will not escape being slowly boiled. They tend to jump out around 25° Celsius or 77° Fahrenheit. The story may originate with a 1869 experiment by Friedrich Goltz in which a frog didn't jump out of slowly boiled water. The important detail omitted from the story is that the frog in the experiment had its brain removed.
ReferencesPauly, Philip J. "The political structure of the brain: cerebral localization in Bismarckian Germany.", 2005.
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