In the North-East of England we have the saying:

Shy bairns get nowt

With a less-slang equivalent of:

Shy children get no sweets.

It's kind of like "Nothing ventured, nothing gained".

Is there an equivalent saying in American English?

  • 2
    Nice guys finish last. – skullpatrol Jan 3 '14 at 11:52
  • Why nowt not nought? – tchrist Jan 3 '14 at 14:40
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    @tchrist, owt and nowt are quite common dialectal variants of a/ought and na/ought, respectively. I think (but am not entirely sure) that (n)owt is mostly used in the northern parts of Great Britain (i.e., Scotland and Northern England). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 3 '14 at 16:40
  • Go hard or go home. (I got it from some training camp's ad. ;-) – Damkerng T. Jan 3 '14 at 16:53
  • @tchrist I understand nowt as being a contraction of nothing, it's also reflects how it is pronounced in N.England – Mari-Lou A Jan 4 '14 at 1:42

"The squeaky wheel gets the oil," because squeaky wheels are like children who are not shy. They make too much noise.

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  • 6
    I always heard it as "grease" rather than oil, but this would have been my answer. Note that, this is often used in the context of inanimate problems, rather than just with people. – T.E.D. Jan 3 '14 at 15:52
  • Squeaking kids are "people?" – Michael Owen Sartin Jan 3 '14 at 16:43
  • All kids are. That comment may be in a light vein, but dispensable I guess. – Kris Jan 4 '14 at 5:22

Similar: Fortune favors the bold.


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The most common that I hear on the west coast, by far, is “No pain, no gain”. I do commonly hear “Nothing ventured nothing gained”, but that’s usually by people over ~20 years old.

I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard “Shy kids get no sweets”, but I don’t think that phrasing would be well received here. Some might even consider it offensive (rare, but something to note).

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  • It sounds a little silly, huh? Almost like a Pink Floyd reference or something. I'd look at somebody strangely if they said that to me. +1 for "No pain, no gain." – Preston Jan 7 '14 at 22:37
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    @PrestonFitzgerald: agreed. Especially when you consider how much people are trying to change speech to be more inclusive of people as a whole. – Jacobm001 Jan 8 '14 at 16:07

Oxford's A Dictionary of American Proverbs (1992), which relies on oral rather than written sources, has these variants under the heading ask:

ask 1. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Vars.: (a) Ask and have. (b) Ask and learn. (c) Ask and you'll find out. (d) By asking one learns. (e) Them as asks, gits; them as don't ask, don't git.

The part of the main proverb about the door opening and (especially) variant (e) above seem pretty strongly on point here.

From the same source (recorded in Ontario):

He who begs timidly, courts refusal.

Yet another observation on the disadvantages of shyness—or lack of confidence—occurs in this proverb (recorded in California, Louisiana, and New York and reported in the same dictionary):

He who is afraid of doing too much always does too little.

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  • Them as asks, gits; them as don't ask, don't git.!! – Kris Jan 4 '14 at 5:20

You could simply go with something along the lines of

He Who Dares Wins

You could also go for the internationally recognised.

Those that don't ask don't get.

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  • I think the He is not quite needed. And that seems British, not American. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Dares_Wins – Kris Jan 3 '14 at 14:29
  • @Kris - Seems British to me too. North London version would be "To dare is to do". :-) – T.E.D. Jan 3 '14 at 15:58
  • - Letting “I dare not” wait upon “I would, ” Like the poor cat i' th' adage? - Anyone? Bueller? Anyone? – Mitch Jan 3 '14 at 18:15
  • That last one sound like If you don’t ask, you know the answer. – tchrist Jan 4 '14 at 0:47

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