In Brazilian Portuguese, we have:

"The bird who goes around with a bat wakes up hanging upside down"

Original: "Passarinho que anda com morcego amanhece de cabeça pra baixo"

The literal meaning is that the bat is a bad company (the kind our mothers warn about) and the bird will wake up like a bat, hanging on a branch upside down.

I suspect this kind of humour is more prone to happen in the "New World" than in the old Europe, but maybe all English-speaking people share a similar expression. If not, which expression(s) could be globally understood?

  • 1
    But what is the meaning? – tchrist Mar 16 '13 at 20:13
  • @tchrist, well, seems my translation is not good enough, updated the Q. – brasofilo Mar 16 '13 at 20:17
  • 1
    My problem was understanding the intent behind it. One might also translate it more like “The bird who goes around with a bat wakes up head down”, which is more literal, or “wakes up hanging upside down”, which is the intent and has a nice up–down opposition. – tchrist Mar 16 '13 at 22:11
  • @tchrist, perfect, thanks for the input and improvements. – brasofilo Mar 16 '13 at 22:15

I’m not quite sure what you’re looking for, but perhaps one of these suits:

  • Bad company corrupts good morals/manners/character.
  • You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.
  • Yes, the bad company is the moral of the "story", and the dog/fleas is pretty much the meaning but without much humour. – brasofilo Mar 16 '13 at 20:23
  • @tchrist: Yes, your first example paraphrases 1 Corinthians 15:33, King James Version: Be not deceived : evil communications corrupt good manners. – rhetorician Mar 17 '13 at 1:49

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