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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

15 Answers 15

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
I agree nouveau riche is good for the first situation too, although it has connotations more of someone who becomes wealthy, but has no idea how to engender the behaviours of those born to wealth. It implies a certain tackiness, and bad and ostetatious taste. The Russian oligarch and his blatant display of wealth is a common archetype when describing this kind of person. For the second situation, 'user' is a colloquail, if inexact term. A 'user' climbs socially or professionally, then forgets the people 'used' to get himself'herself there. – Pete855217 Apr 6 at 16:33

"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.

(Source: Proverb Hunter)

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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

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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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 "bananas", 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

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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"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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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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American Midwesternism:

"Dropped his past like a live grenade." Sometimes "dropped his friends like a live grenade" or "dropped the old neighborhood like a live grenade."

Point of the metaphor is that he didn't just quietly stop having anything to do with where he came from; he treated like something dangerous (the way a live grenade is). To drop is just to pretend it's not there; to "drop like a live grenade" is to take active measures to get it away from you.

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Good, except that this dropping is, as you say, quite active - it is hardly just "forgetting". It is active and intentional, and probably conscious. – Drew Jul 11 '15 at 1:57
I think this is a good expression. In reply to Drew's comment, if a person "forgets" their roots, it's because they want to, it's not accidental, or due to memory loss. This post just needs a reference to support this answer. – Mari-Lou A Jul 11 '15 at 4:50
Well, the Harvard Lampoon parody of The Lord of the Rings, "Bored of the Rings", described the inhabitants of the Sty (i.e. their take on the Shire) as "They shortened their names and elbowed their way into all the country clubs, dropping their old language and customs like a live grenade" (page xviii of the front material) which seems to be the earliest I can find it in print on a quick search. Page number in original Signet Edition was Year of pub was 1969. Not sure how thorough a reference is needed here. – JohnBarnes Jul 12 '15 at 7:54
For a less military version, substitute 'hot rock' for hand grenade. – Stan 7 hours ago

"Boy, don't he think he's walking in tall cotton!" --Something my grandad says about people who are suddenly too good to pay you any mind.

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You might say that such a person has gotten too big for his/her britches or gotten too big for his/her boots:

Conceited, self-important, as in Ever since he won that tournament he's gotten too big for his britches, or There's no talking to Jill anymore—she's just too big for her boots. This metaphoric idiom alludes to becoming so “swollen” with conceit that one's pants or boots no longer fit. [Late 1800s]


By itself it doesn't necessarily imply that someone came from humble beginnings, but used with "gotten" it suggests a change in someone's behavior.

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kick away the ladder

burn the bridges

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wake up one day thinking the sun shines out of one's ass

think the sun shines out of (someone's) backside/butt/ass/arse (chiefly BrEng)

To believe a person is better or more important than others or above reproach. (Note: If thought about oneself, it means that they are arrogant, conceited, or self-absorbed. If someone thinks this of another person, it means that he or she loves or admires that person to such a degree as to be blind to any of their potential faults.) Tom has acted like he's such a hotshot after getting the promotion. He thinks the sun shines out his backside! He's absolutely head-over-heels in love with Mary. Even though I find her a bit irritating, he thinks the sun shines out her backside.

Farlex Dictionary of Idioms

forget the hand that fed you

Google Books

bite the hand that feeds (one)

To repay generosity or kindness with ingratitude and injury.

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

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