Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The proverb is "Amaa buneethee fara-h dhiy-un" which basically translates to "To walk along the shore (the point of which is to collect cowrie shells which were used as currency among seafarers and residents around the Indian Ocean), just because his/her mother had instructed him to do so ie. carelessly, aimlessly, in a poor attempt... etc?

Some decades ago, it had been common practise to do this daily, and it was often the case that kids sent to do this chore often wandered around aimlessly or played about and returned with barely any shells or none at all, certainly less than someone who had actually attempted to do so.

Cheers!

share|improve this question

5 Answers 5

It's not a proverb, but there is this idiomatic phrase:

go through the motions

which NOAD defines as:

go through the motions do something perfunctorily, without any enthusiasm or commitment; simulate an action: a child goes through the motions of washing up.

Collins says:

go through the motions to act or perform the task (of doing something) mechanically or without sincerity

and CDO:

go through the motions to do something without thinking it is very important or having much interest in it: He says he's been investigating my complaint, but I feel he's just going through the motions.

Too bad this simple phrase doesn't have the rich imagery of the Maldivian proverb, but it does align with a mood of carelessness, aimlessness, and a shiftless attempt at accomplishing an assigned task. It might be worth note that CDO tags the phrase with a disapproving tag, indicating that it's not meant to be used as a compliment.

share|improve this answer

One colloquial phrase would have the person 'phoning it in', the implication being that she couldn't be bothered to show up in person.

As explained in the urban dictionary.

share|improve this answer

The English word is perfunctory (adj.) or perfunctorily (adv):

adj.
1. Done routinely and with little interest or care: The operator answered the phone with a perfunctory greeting.
2. Acting with indifference; showing little interest or care.

As a proverb, one might refer to being the hare rather than the tortoise, referring to the fable by Aesop.

As an idiom, one might say haste makes waste, though that doesn't hit quite the right connotation in your example of the little children.

Alternatively, an old Spanish saying to capture your connotation might be:
One blow on the nail, one hundred on the horseshoe.

A more current proverb directly addressing your example might be something like
He mined bitcoin with a Pentium 1.

share|improve this answer

Mostly single-word options--of which some are better than others, with some of them emphasizing a laziness and lack of diligence or perhaps a stop-and-start, stop-and-start way of going about something:

  • lazily

  • desultorily

  • indifferently

  • lackadaisically

  • indolently

  • lethargically

  • listlessly

  • uninterestedly

  • vacillatingly

  • irresolutely

  • meanderingly

  • ambivalently

  • wishy-washily

  • aimlessly

  • "He's daydreaming"

  • "She's woolgathering"

  • couldn't care less (which some people word incorrectly as "could care less," which means something different)

  • a slacker

  • feigning/faking diligence

  • mimicking diligence

  • an "eye-pleaser" is someone who works only under constant supervision, to impress the supervisor; otherwise, "when the cat (the supervisor) is away, the mouse will play," accomplishing little or nothing

The above words and phrases should get you started, though each has its own peculiar charm and connotation.

share|improve this answer

This idiom from the north of England, still common in the southern USA: "He gave it a lick and a promise." Lick, in this saying, means one stroke of a tool with a handle such as a rake, broom, axe.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.