Unilever, the maker of Marmite, has done a great marketing job with the Love-it-or-hate-it campaigns over the years, so much so that “It’s Marmite” has now become a stand-alone phrase in British English.
According to the MacMillan dictionary online,
If something is described as Marmite , then there’s no way you can be indifferent about it or express minor shades of like or dislike. No, if it’s Marmite , then its very nature forces you to firmly sit in either the ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ camp.
Although people have been using Marmite to describe polarizing things or people for a few decades, it can now stand on its own in a sentence, without anyone having to add clarification – “You either love it or hate it.”
Northern Piper, Marmite was part of a boy’s proper education at one of the schools I attended in Oakville, ON. When I was first introduced to it, I thought it was one of those “character building” trials, only to learn that some people love it. That’s when I first began to realize that although I am of British heritage, I’m Canadian.
Our 5 year old asked for a Marmite sandwich in her school lunch recently, and then again, and again, and again! She’s actually getting Vegemite, but whatever, we will have that conversation with her when we discuss the truth about Santa Clause. The trick with both, as I’m sure you know, is to spread it thinly on butter. It’s also nice with cheese.
I hadn’t heard Marmite used in reference to other polarising things, but it makes sense.
It’s the TV show/company frankly making excuses for having employed him for so long. Saying ‘he’s marmite’ makes it look like some people must like/love him, so it’s ok for them to employ him. Sounds better than ‘he’s loathsome’.
It’s a term I might use with my colleagues about a horrible client, trying to be diplomatic. Everyone in room will know I’m actually saying ‘he’s a dick’.
Funny how much native idiom shift one misses after a long time away. I lived in the USA for about 3 decades & only recently came back to the UK a year ago. Much is the same, but there are a few ‘duh, what?’ things like this which come as a surprise!