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.

There's a Hungarian phrase that can be literally translated as something like "fall off the other side of the horse". (The literal implication is either that instead of falling off this side of the horse, you fell off the other side; or that in your zeal to get on the horse, you overshot the target and fell off the other side.) It means that you are at one extreme of a situation, and you want to change it so hard that you fall into the opposite extreme. Is there an equivalent of this phrase/idiom in English?

share|improve this question
4  
@Robusto, no ‒ “bend over backwards” means “try very hard to please someone” (1, 2, 3) –  jwpat7 Jan 10 '13 at 19:09
1  
1  
The resulting situation is often covered by "the cure is worse than the disease", but that doesn't really cover the action itself. –  Marthaª Jan 10 '13 at 19:44
2  
Oh, and for the curious, the Hungarian phrase in question is "átesik a ló túloldalára". –  Marthaª Jan 10 '13 at 19:45
1  
Perhaps "Out of the frying pan into the fire", meaning that in avoiding one disaster you embraced another? If you've a taste for classical allusion, "Scylla and Charybdis" means much the same thing. But neither really implies running "from one extreme to the other" –  StoneyB Jan 10 '13 at 19:56
show 5 more comments

8 Answers 8

If that expression means that by going to the other extreme you are still in trouble, this expression might fit:

EDIT:

"out of the frying pan and into the fire"

per @MikeM's comment that I had the expression slightly wrong

share|improve this answer
2  
The expression is more commonly, out of the frying pan [and] into the fire. –  MikeM Jan 10 '13 at 20:21
3  
@Kristina Lopez: The expression you offer, "[out of] the frying pan into the fire", means that an even worse outcome, not an equally dire one, ensues. You only claimed that your answer 'might fit', but Dolfy identified it as a 'perfect match'. It is not. Assuming that Scylla and Charybdis were equally nasty, the meaning of the Latin expression is equivalent (to one of the notions put forward by the OP - not the 'overshoot' notion) - but I don't think the English translation is used nowadays. –  Edwin Ashworth Jan 10 '13 at 20:34
4  
I agree. Let's popularise 'He fell off the other side of his horse' - it's a fun image. Thelwellian. –  Edwin Ashworth Jan 10 '13 at 22:48
2  
@EdwinAshworth: the problem is not with equally nasty or more nasty. The problem is, just like with the Scylla and Charybdis, that it is about the same type of problem. You try to avoid a bad situation, but end up in the same (or worse), but still in the same type of a problem. This is not even close to the meaning of the horse analogy, where you end up with a completely different problem, as the result of overcompensating. And, the horse analogy does not necessarily mean a problem or a bad situation. It might only mean that you stated an opinion that is considered to be the opposite extreme. –  vsz Jan 11 '13 at 5:51
2  
@EdwinAshworth: as a native speaker, I can tell when I usually hear this horse analogy. First when it's about "actively adopting a policy to address a problem which sadly leads to a diametrically opposite problem" what you said. The other circumstances are when in a discussion or argument someone wildly exaggerates a viewpoint, or suggests a counterargument or idea which is either dramatically opposite or dramatically exaggerated. Of course, the later one might cover "incorrect" uses. I'll search for it in linguistic books when I have the possibility and expand this comment. –  vsz Jan 11 '13 at 11:06
show 14 more comments

Simply to 'go from one extreme to the other' or 'go from one extreme to another'.

share|improve this answer
add comment

The idiom go overboard (“To go to extremes, especially as a result of enthusiasm”) implies extremity, although not necessarily the opposite extremity.

share|improve this answer
2  
Yes, something like that. Just found this: Go from one extreme to the other. Maybe this is the best I can get. –  Dolfy Jan 10 '13 at 18:30
add comment

Answering the ‘It means that you are at one extreme of a situation, and you want to change it so hard that you fall into the opposite extreme’ part:

In Old Tales Retold from Grecian Mythology in Talks Around the Fire (1876) by Augusta Larned (as at google books), it is stated that

To escape Scylla only to fall on Charybdis

‘has become a proverbial expression’.

share|improve this answer
4  
I'm not sure how common that expression is. In casual conversation, I suspect most people would respond with "huh?". –  Jon of All Trades Jan 10 '13 at 22:35
1  
The problem is that it's not about an opposite extreme, but about ending up with the exact same (or maybe worse, but still of the same type) problem. –  vsz Jan 11 '13 at 4:39
    
I agree with vsz-- sort of an out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire feeling to it. –  Iucounu Jan 11 '13 at 8:14
    
The tale of Scylla and Charybdis is usually used to depict a choice between two evils, rather than over-enthusiasm. –  Bobble Jan 16 '13 at 19:56
add comment

"complete" + (U-turn, about-face, change of course, change of heart, reversal, switch in positions, turn-around, flip-flop); going to the opposite extreme

share|improve this answer
    
I'm surprised that two people down-voted my answer. I wrote my answer prior to MikeM's popular answer, and mine is the most complete and correct of any here. Answers missing key points of the requirement get lots of upvotes... insane! –  Iucounu Jan 11 '13 at 16:42
    
For the record, i upvoted your answer because there is room for interpretation if you are open-minded enough to mull on another's viewpoint - for example: if you were sitting in a frying pan, your butt would get hot so you would jump up - opposite of the location of the heat - but jumping up could likely have you end up in the fire, when you land. So you might intend to go to the extreme without intending to end up somewhere worse. That's my interpretation of my answer which jives with OP's intent and affirmation. –  Kristina Lopez Jan 11 '13 at 16:59
add comment

Though it doesn’t have the same flavor as the original Hungarian phrase, the term overcorrect is often used in such situations.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Not exactly what you're asking for, but throw out the baby with the bath water might be suitable in many contexts.

share|improve this answer
6  
No. I'm not downvoting, but that idiom means waste by losing something valuable, in the course of getting rid of something that is undesirable. –  Iucounu Jan 10 '13 at 18:38
1  
that is a specific example of going to far though –  jk. Jan 11 '13 at 9:52
add comment

It's not exactly a proverbial phrase, but "falling over yourself" is sometimes used for getting into some difficulty through an excess of enthusiasm:

He was falling over himself to help out.

share|improve this answer
    
This really doesn't mean anything like the phrase in question. –  Marthaª Jan 11 '13 at 15:11
add comment

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.