English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I found the phrase, “There is no sewer he wasn’t willing to swim in for his master” in the following sentence in Jeffrey Archer’s novel, “False Impression.”

“Fenston looked down at a man who had proved, time and time again, that there was no sewer he wasn’t willing to swim in for his master. But then Fenston was the only person who had been willing to offer Leapman a job after he’d been released from jail.”

As we have the similar cliché, “水火も辞せず- be willing to jump in fire and water (for his master / mission)” in Japanese, I was interested in this expression.

So I searched the phrase on Google to confirm its exact usage. All I could find were a stack of the same clips from “False Impression” and no English dictionaries at hand carry this expression as an idiom.

Is “There is no sewer one isn’t willing to swim in for one’s master” an established English idiom, or just a phrase coined by Jeffrey Archer?

share|improve this question
Why does everything have to be called a cliche lately? Archer is well-travelled, and a relatively assiduous writer, so it's quite possible he was aware of the Japanese expression, and that his own turn of phrase was inspired by that. – FumbleFingers Sep 27 '11 at 11:03
Not that I disagree with your general observation, but in this case, I think that the OP would be a better judge of whether the Japanese phrase is overused in that language. He did use "idiom" later to refer to the English phrase. Plus he gets points for not forgetting the accent. – JeffSahol Sep 27 '11 at 11:39
@JeffSahol: I didn't forget the accent, any more than I forget it when I write cafe where the Victorians wrote café. You're right OP is the better judge of whether (his Japanese expression) is a cliche or not, but then again I'm concerned he may be picking up his definition of cliche right here on EL&U. Just because a turn of phrase has been used before and is known to many people, doesn't make it a cliche. – FumbleFingers Sep 27 '11 at 22:45

It's not an English idiom, established or otherwise.

If you can't find a phrase via Google (other than extracts from the book and now this question) or in any dictionaries, then it's a very safe bet that it isn't an established idiom. I also couldn't find anything similar in Google Books.

share|improve this answer

Not where I live. Probably just an Archerism.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


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.