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I am having difficulty finding English idiom(s) for these situations:

  • A person who was previously poor then becomes arrogant because she/he is rich now.

  • A person who has been helped (because she/he really needs it) but she/he just walks away (and forgetting the person who has helped her/him) after achieving a comfortable state.

Does this ring a bell: "A rolling stone gathers no moss"?

My native proverb is: "The nut that forgets its skin"

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That's not what "a rolling stone gathers no moss" means. This means a life with a lot of excitement may miss things (like making good friends). There's nothing there about forgetting one's past. –  Mitch Jul 30 '13 at 13:54
"A rolling stone gathers no moss" can also refer to a person who changes locations, jobs, careers, etc. so much that they don't accumulate any wealth. The way I've most thought of it is that an active, vibrant person who lives life to the fullest isn't weighed down by baggage or other signs of stagnation. But I have no idea if this is a common or correct interpretation… :) –  ghoppe Jul 31 '13 at 0:15
This question keeps reminding me of an antonym to what the asker is looking for: still Jenny from the block! –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 31 '13 at 1:50

11 Answers 11

"A rolling stone gathers no moss" is a proverb rather than an idiom. It means that people who constantly move from one place to the next never make money or friends.

A proverb that meets your definition is:

Set a beggar on horseback, and he'll ride to the Devil.


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Thank you. Is there any other idiom you might consider? The situation could be also like this: A person who has been helped (because she/he really needs it) but she/he just walks away (and forgetting the person who helps her/him) after achieving a comfortable state. –  rusticmystic Jul 31 '13 at 1:06
@Des. Apparently, there is a Japanese proverb that is equivalent as: A satiated mouth soon forgets the benefactor. Maybe someone could provide the original. –  Shoe Jul 31 '13 at 5:40
If you re-read my question, what I need is English idiom(s), thanks. –  rusticmystic Aug 1 '13 at 21:31
@Des, An idiom for someone who actively harms their benefactor is: to bite the hand that feeds you. idioms.thefreedictionary.com/bite+the+hand+that+feeds –  Shoe Aug 2 '13 at 6:41

One such is nouveau riche:

noun [treated as plural] (usually the nouveau riche)

people who have recently acquired wealth, typically those perceived as ostentatious or lacking in good taste


[A rolling stone gathers no moss is not the same]

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This is the best answer for the first situation. I would add, for the second situation, the word ingrate. –  JeffSahol Aug 1 '13 at 23:44

Such a person can be said to have "forgot where he came from", meaning he's forgotten his humble roots and is acting as if he was born to wealth.

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I wonder if that is an English idiom (?), thanks anyway. –  rusticmystic Aug 1 '13 at 5:54
@Des, are you looking specifically for UK English idioms? –  Leatherwing Aug 1 '13 at 16:45
Actually I am looking for both British and American English idiom(s). –  rusticmystic Aug 1 '13 at 21:38

Consider social climber

a person who strives to gain a higher rank in society, usu. by associating with more socially prominent people.

Social climber is a term that could be used by someone of any social status when characterizing a person seeking to be accepted in a status higher than previously inhabited.

You might also consider

These last three are more likely to be used by someone of a higher class looking down on the climber. The last may have special issues in its use (at least in the US) because of its association with the term uppity

putting on or marked by airs of superiority : arrogant, presumptuous

This term was used extensively in the 20th century to refer negatively to African Americans (and sometimes other minority groups) who sought to be treated equally.

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Perhaps not the best answer, but a related (and useful) quote:

It pays to be nice to the people you meet on the way up, for they are the same people you meet on the way down. — Walter Winchell

There's also the more ghetto-type phrase (relevant, although vulgar):

Acting like your [excrement] doesn't stink.

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I generally hear this (sad to say) in racial terms.

For instance, a black person who does this is called an "Oreo" (black on the outside, white on the inside). A Native American in this situation is called an "Apple". (red on the outside...well, you get the idea). I've heard of Chinese similarly being called "banannas", but I'm not acquainted with enough Chinese to know how common that one is.

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I’ve heard banana too; I’d say it’s fairly common. Similarly, I’ve been called an egg myself on occasion. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 18 '14 at 8:13

Such a person is often described as "Putting on airs."

A single-word that describes this is "pretentious." It implies that the person is undeserving of of their current position.

Other synonyms include poseur, poser, and imposter.

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The best I can come up to describe the sentiment: Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

If you wanted, you could put your own spin on the phrase: absolute wealth corrupts absolutely.

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After two days I think I have it: victim of one's own success.

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"Forgetting that the rungs on the ladder to success are people, not things to be stepped on."

In other words, people provide us with the rungs on which to climb the ladder of success; they themselves are not the rungs to be stepped on on the way up!

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kick away the ladder

burn the bridges

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