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a modest proposal

a modest proposal in Culture

“A Modest Proposal” definition


(1729) An essay by Jonathan Swift, often called a masterpiece of irony. The full title is “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of the Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to Their Public.” Swift emphasizes the terrible poverty of eighteenth-century Ireland by ironically proposing that Irish parents earn money by selling their children as food.

Note: The phrase “a modest proposal” is often used ironically to introduce a major innovative suggestion.
The American Heritage® 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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