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.

My friend works for an investment firm, and his colleague mistakenly double-submitted a long bid for stock on a very risky day. The entire firm was on edge the whole day, watching the stock price. In the end, the price went sky-high and the firm made a lot of money, so the friend was praised. However, he could easily have been in big trouble with the boss if the price had dropped. What is a term for this? Also, is there a term for the person who made the mistake?

share|improve this question
6  
Related to, but in a way kind of the opposite of, a blessing in disguise. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet May 28 at 16:04
1  
Recent financial history has plenty of idiots making mistakes that cost their firms huge amounts. That's not including deliberate but stupid moves, such as trying to recoup unauthorized trading losses by making even bigger bets. I can't believe this guy was praised -- if anything, he should have been fired on the spot. No wonder we're in such an economic mess. –  Phil Perry May 28 at 19:09
1  
In an almost literal sense, your friend's colleague was saved by the bell (the bell on the trading floor, that is). Of course, the bell could just as well have tolled for him, if the stock had tanked. So it's not the right phrase, and doesn't imply him being foolish, but it kinda fits the situation you describe. –  Flambino May 28 at 21:51
4  
All's well that ends well –  Danield May 29 at 5:08
2  
Not a term, but a semi-common expression: "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while". –  Mark Peters May 30 at 4:58

10 Answers 10

up vote 33 down vote accepted

One expression is 'fall in s--t and come out smelling of roses'. It's fairly common that people use just the end of the phrase: 'come out smelling like a rose', to avoid the vulgarity. This can apply to bad luck or stupidity.

share|improve this answer
1  
I think this completely represents the situation and can't help but smile at the imagery it creates. Thanks! –  Dan Verdolino May 28 at 18:42
5  
To me, this suggests someone who manages to turn a bad situation to their advantage, rather than someone whose actions succeed by luck. –  sweeneyrod Jun 1 at 8:54

Dumb Luck: the way in which something good happens completely by chance, without being planned or deserved. (Sometimes emphasized by adding sheer before it: Sheer dumb luck.)

share|improve this answer
9  
Literary usage example: "Five points will be awarded to each of you, for sheer dumb luck" - Minerva McGonagle. –  DVK May 30 at 1:05
    
Please upvote a comment I left beneath my post english.stackexchange.com/questions/133409/… I also point out the discrepancy between the OP's request and the accepted answer. –  Mari-Lou A Sep 22 at 8:38

He lucked out.

luck out: To be a benefactor of good fortune rather than fall victim to circumstance.

share|improve this answer
    
This is the best -- it has the clear implication that things very easily could have turned out poorly. –  WinnieNicklaus May 28 at 17:42
1  
Is there an implication of stupidity preceding a person "lucking out"? –  Dan Verdolino May 28 at 18:13
1  
@DanVerdolino There can be. In this case, your friend made a stupid mistake, but he lucked out due to the fact that the error ended up making the firm money. –  njboot May 28 at 18:30
    
Or dumb luck is common as well. –  fredsbend May 28 at 21:30
1  
@DanVerdolino Yes, that's a good counter-example. But, as I said it can be. It doesn't have to. It's all about the context. To "fall in sh-- and come out smelling like roses" principally implies, in my opinion, to have a situation turn out better than expected. There's no tacit implication of stupidity. –  njboot May 30 at 23:37

The term for the result of the stupid action could be happy accident, meaning a blunder that ultimately proved advantageous. However, this term is occasionally used as an informal euphemism for "unplanned pregnancy", so use with caution.

An adjective used to describe such blind luck is fortuitous (there is also a noun fortuity). A single instance of blind luck is a stroke of luck.

Although this does not coincide precisely with the concept you are trying to express, the word serendipity means "the luck of finding something pleasant when you do not expect it".

share|improve this answer
1  
Serendipity I think is more benign than the story given in the op. I would say the situation was serendipitous. But if, for example, there was a situation that was not nearly as nail biting, but turned out just as fortunate, then I would say that it was serendipitous. –  fredsbend May 28 at 21:32
    
@fredsbend You're right; that's why I listed it as a possible alternative, and not as the most likely answer. –  Theodore Broda May 28 at 21:48

Well, there is one online dictionary that has followed fiction in defining pull a Homer this way.

There are some more widely-known, but also more less specifically defined, like "lucky skunk", "jammy bastard" and so on, that refer to the pure luck involved rather than the luck coming on the heels of a clearly incompetent act.

share|improve this answer
    
Jammy Bastard is good. –  dwjohnston May 28 at 21:48
    
Yes, "pulled a Homer" is the only apt phrase given here for what the OP asked, though it's not common (yet). Had you not put it, I would have. It's funny how memory works: that episode of The Simpsons aired 22 and a half years ago, and although I may have seen it as a repeat, I know I haven't seen it in at least 10-15 years and only saw it once, and yet as soon as I read this question this instantly occurred to be just because it was so perfectly apt. –  Chelonian May 31 at 6:46

The person who submitted the risky trade is definitely a lucky fool. Actually the whole office is probably considered lucky fools, celebrating something that was so disruptive and risky.

share|improve this answer
1  
They clearly weren't a lucky fool as in Nassim Taleb's coinage, because it was a mistake and they knew it was such. To be a lucky fool, they would have had to have made the double submission on purpose, thinking they had a masterful plan, have been wrong about the masterful plan, and then have succeeded due to luck. “Lucky fools do not bear the slightest suspicion that they may be lucky fools — by definition, they do not know that they belong to such category. They will act as if they deserved the money.” –  Jon Hanna May 28 at 16:07
    
@JonHanna - They were lucky fools after they won. Instead of treating the situation as normal, they celebrated the outcome thinking that the idiot that hit submit twice was "smart". –  RyeɃreḁd May 28 at 16:10
2  
I'd celebrate too. I'd congratulate him on his luck too. I'd still make sure it never happened again, though. –  Jon Hanna May 28 at 16:12
1  
you're right - this anecdote explains an awful lot about boom to bust ;) –  Cor_Blimey May 28 at 18:04

Several eighteenth-century (or older) proverbs address this situation. James Kelly, Complete Collection of Scottish Proverbs (1721) lists two relevant sayings (with his comments beneath each):

More by good luck, than by good guiding.

Spoken when a Thing, ill managed, falls out well.

and

Give a Man Luck, and cast him in the Sea.

Spoken when a Man is unexpectedly fortunate.

John Ray, Compleat Collection of English Proverbs (1737) offers two other proverbs on the same theme:

Fortune favours fools; or, fools have the best luck.

and

He rose with his Arse upwards. (A sign of good luck.)

share|improve this answer
    
+1 for "Fortune favours fools", it couldn't be more appropriate given the double meaning of "fortune" as luck/wealth. :-) –  msb May 30 at 19:38

Similar to an answer suggested earlier, but one I've heard is "he fell into a barrel of dicks and came out sucking his thumb"

share|improve this answer
    
Hi, welcome to EL&U! This answer is actually kind of hilarious, but I'm thinking it might be better as a comment. It's pretty close to "fell in s**t and came out smelling like roses", right? –  Ice-9 May 29 at 16:09
1  
I like this answer, actually this and "...smelling like roses" both describe the entire situation quite well, which is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks! –  Dan Verdolino May 29 at 16:55
    
Dicks? Ducks? Dorks? Please do take your time to properly spell out all words. Thank you. –  RegDwigнt Jun 7 at 19:13

A common saying in Hebrew which fits this perfectly: "More luck than brains".

share|improve this answer
    
A variant I've used for decades is "more by luck than judgement". Any idea if the original is Hebrew or was translated from something else into Hebrew? –  Peter Bagnall Jun 2 at 12:48
    
@PeterBagnall: I'm not sure, but if I come across an answer I'll get back to you. The Hebrew "יותר מזל משכל" could be translated to "more luck than judgement" as well. –  dotancohen Jun 3 at 6:06

One possibility... the phrase "throw underwear against the wall and see if it sticks" might be apt. In this case, they threw two... and they both stuck... imagine the odds!

share|improve this answer

protected by tchrist May 30 at 10:13

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

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