To separate the wheat from the chaff

separate wheat from the chaff expression meaning

Photo credit: Science Photo Library

Today I went to a get-together with fellow translators and was rewarded with some stimulating and intelligent conversation. At some point an expression ‘to separate the wheat from the chaff‘ was used and I thought it should make an appearance on this blog, considering I’ve come across it a few times already.

This means ‘to separate things or people that are of high quality or ability from those that are not’ (Cambridge Dictionaries Online). It can be used with the verbs separate, sort or sift.

Some examples:

– The first round of interviews really separates the wheat from the chaff (Cambridge Dictionaries Online).

– Barbara Epstein was both sorts of editor—the one at the top and the one who separated the wheat from the chaff—and, to those outside the literary and intellectual world in which she lived, she was unseen: no bylines for her, no book tours, no interviews on talk-shows. But she was not in the business of publishing chaff (The Economist).

– AltaVista still lacked Google’s uncanny ability to separate the wheat from the chaff (The Economist).

– “We have something like a Wild West on the internet,” says Jamie Bartlett, senior researcher at Demos. “There’s a huge amount of very trustworthy, academic, good bits of journalism [on the internet], more than ever before, which is extremely liberating. But at the same time, equal proportions of distortions, propaganda, lies, mistruths, half-truths and all sorts of rubbish. It can be very difficult, especially for younger people, to sort the wheat from the chaff.” (BBC)

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