I'm looking for an expression to describe a situation where there was a transaction where some kind of advantage was expected but in the end there was not actual change or advantage.

I was trying to describe a scenario where one owns a business, say a pawnshop, that involves multiple complicated transactions, but for various reasons, in the end of the month she finds out all her trades resulted neither in profit nor loss.

I've considered status quo ante but I see that expression mostly applied to situations where a change was attempted on a situation, and not for transactions between two parties where a trade of some sort is attempted.

There's also six of one half a dozen of the other, but I understand that as a comparison of two things that are identical, but not outcomes of situations.

  • Break even point? Net gain of 0?
    – MetaEd
    Oct 30, 2013 at 6:32

2 Answers 2


breakeven, perhaps that is the word that you are looking for.

  • What on earth has it got to do with 'breakeven'? That word simply refers to a financial result which is neither a profit nor a loss. The OP asked for a word which, as I understand it, describes a scenario where an expected advantage, turns out to be a disappointment. Perhaps the term is 'the results "flattered to deceive", or "fell short of expectations"'
    – WS2
    Oct 30, 2013 at 10:35
  • I guess you got it wrong. There was no presumption that there will be a disappointment at the end. The OP merely asked for a word where a transaction would result to neither profit nor lost.
    – gelolopez
    Oct 31, 2013 at 1:49

Zero Sum Game is a concept in Game Theory representing a closed system, of an ideal competitive environment, where the gains of one party equals the loss of the other party. The Nash equilibrium is situation of such a nature, which was the focus of the 1994 Nobel prize for Mathematics.

However to us, mere muggles, we malapropize the mathematical concept by saying zero-sum gain to jeer people close to us who go about pointlessly investing much time and effort but in the end not gaining any profit (nor incurring loss).

Many people who've read the book of Ecclesiastes believe it is a critique by the author that life on earth is exactly zero-sum gain. That it is pointless and futile.

However, I begged to differ, where I believe that Ecclesiastes speaks of Zero-sum Game, not zero-sum gain. That the author of Ecclesiastes, presumably King Solomon, was actually writing a mathematical theses on Game Theory in the language of his day. I don't think many people like my theory on his theory.

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