Column: Opening up Pandora’s can of worms


Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

When it comes to streaming radio services, I prefer Pandora over Amazon Music. You see, Pandora offers deep cuts while Amazon plays mostly predictable hits. Even though I’m an Amazon Prime member and benefit from no commercials, I opt for the advertisement-laden Pandora radio. What can I say? I like Pandora’s algorithm (or is it Al Gore Rhythm?) better.

I didn’t mean to open up a can of worms about streaming radio services. Or is it opening up Pandora’s box? Let’s get to the bottom of this, shall we?

According to the dictionary by Merriam-Webster, Pandora’s box is “a source of many troubles” or “something that will lead to many problems.” According to the Ancient Greek tale, some evil wedding guest gave a character called Pandora a box as a wedding gift, but Pandora was not to open it. Curiosity got the better of poor Pandora, and she opened the box, the result of which unleashed sickness, death and all sorts of evil into the world. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Although the origin of the phrase “open up a can of worms” is uncertain, imagine you’re going fishing in the 1950s. You’ll need some bait, so you head over to the neighborhood bait and tackle shop, where you purchase a can of worms. This can of worms is nothing to worry about — that is — until you open it. Once you open the can of worms, all the wiggly, slimy, tangled-up mess of worms try to get out of the can. It’s like trying to put already-squeezed toothpaste back into a tube.

Both “taking the lid off Pandora’s box” and “opening up a can of worms” are precarious situations, but there is a difference between the two. When you open up a can of worms, you attempt to solve one difficult problem which leads to even more difficult problems. When you take the lid off, or open, Pandora’s box, you unleash an evil that can’t be undone. There is no “CTRL + Z” for Pandora’s box.

“The legislature’s proposed budget cuts really opened up a can of worms.” This example is a complicated situation, but it can (in theory) be resolved.

“When I asked my uncle about his opinions on the current Congress, I didn’t realize that I had opened up Pandora’s box.” In this example, once your uncle starts sharing his views on the government, he will never stop.

I think the lesson here is never to buy fishing bait from a lady named Pandora. If you do, make sure you’re the one that gets away.

Curtis Honeycutt is a syndicated humor columnist. He is the author of “Good Grammar is the Life of the Party: Tips for a Wildly Successful Life.” Find more at