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In my mother tongue (Gujarati) there are two phrases describing the adverse effects of doing a favor. What are their English equivalents, if any?

The phrases are:

  • આંગળી આપેને પ્હોંચો પકડે (someone) is offered a finger and (they) grab the hand

  • ધરમ કરતા ધાડ પડી Making a donation and getting robbed. ધરમ કરતા more often means performing religious ceremony, so another interpretation could be to get robbed while doing pooja.

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Could you list the phrases in your language? That would be interesting. –  Bobbi Bennett May 16 '12 at 17:18
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@BobbiBennett I listed them in Gujarati but I don't know how it can be interesting for someone who does not read the script :) –  Miserable Variable May 16 '12 at 17:40
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In Hungarian, the phrase "I offer my little finger and he wants my whole hand" is used exactly in this form. I doubt the two languages are that closely related. –  vsz May 16 '12 at 19:16
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If someone were to offer me the finger, I would take it as a rude gesture. If someone were to suggest I pull their finger, I would expect a rude, flatulent, response (a fart). –  Bobbi Bennett May 16 '12 at 19:28
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In Italian, the phrase reads as "If you give him a hand, he'll take the arm". In same language, "Giving <someone> a hand" is the equivalent of "helping <someone>". –  Erik Burigo May 17 '12 at 11:58
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4 Answers 4

up vote 26 down vote accepted

Your first example has a direct equivalent:

Give them an inch and they'll take a mile.

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I wouldn't call that a direct equivalent (although it was the first thing I thought of too). IME, it is used in more of an "allowing something" than in a doing a favor context. –  Kevin May 16 '12 at 18:05
    
I think the OP (Miserable Variable) has asked two questions. I also think this is the best answer for the first phrase. –  Bobbi Bennett May 16 '12 at 18:13
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No good deed goes unpunished.

(A phrase I really dislike)

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Indeed it is dislikeable, probably because it is absolute. But when used in a sentence -- "I don't want you to feel you are being punished for doing a good deed" -- it seems ok. Thanks. –  Miserable Variable May 16 '12 at 17:15
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dislike is not a compound that requires a hyphen. –  Kaz May 16 '12 at 19:43
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No good answer shall go unupvoted +1. –  Kris May 17 '12 at 8:25
    
@Kaz, thanks for pointing that out. I had wanted to write a -lot- about how I dislike that phrase, and got distracted. –  Bobbi Bennett May 17 '12 at 14:27
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Another phrase (in addition to those mentioned) could be "biting the hand that feeds".

Here is a literal observation of this phenomenon: my girlfriend was trying to feed a neighbourhood stray cat, and the cat (being rather mean and nasty) scratched and tried to bite my girlfriend's hand.

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Needs rephrasing -- the 'phenomenon' is not your gf but the cat. Change the word order without changing the meaning. –  Kris May 16 '12 at 18:09
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I read everything after "phenomenon is" as being the phenomenon and it sounded ok. –  Miserable Variable May 16 '12 at 18:11
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Camel's nose is a phrase to describe the ill-effect that could result when doing a favour.

It is a reference to the famous Arab fable where an Arab offered a camel's head a place in the tent, but the camel slowly entered completely, thereby pushing the Arab himself out.

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I don't think this phrase is common enough that it can be used without explanatory text. –  smackfu May 16 '12 at 20:21
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