My friend works for an investment firm, and his colleague mistakenly double-submitted a long bid for stock on a very risky day. The entire firm was on edge the whole day, watching the stock price. In the end, the price went sky-high and the firm made a lot of money, so the friend was praised. However, he could easily have been in big trouble with the boss if the price had dropped. What is a term for this? Also, is there a term for the person who made the mistake?

  • 6
    Related to, but in a way kind of the opposite of, a blessing in disguise. May 28, 2014 at 16:04
  • 1
    Recent financial history has plenty of idiots making mistakes that cost their firms huge amounts. That's not including deliberate but stupid moves, such as trying to recoup unauthorized trading losses by making even bigger bets. I can't believe this guy was praised -- if anything, he should have been fired on the spot. No wonder we're in such an economic mess.
    – Phil Perry
    May 28, 2014 at 19:09
  • 3
    In an almost literal sense, your friend's colleague was saved by the bell (the bell on the trading floor, that is). Of course, the bell could just as well have tolled for him, if the stock had tanked. So it's not the right phrase, and doesn't imply him being foolish, but it kinda fits the situation you describe.
    – Flambino
    May 28, 2014 at 21:51
  • 4
    All's well that ends well
    – Danield
    May 29, 2014 at 5:08
  • 2
    Not a term, but a semi-common expression: "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while". May 30, 2014 at 4:58

10 Answers 10


One expression is 'fall in s--t and come out smelling of roses'. It's fairly common that people use just the end of the phrase: 'come out smelling like a rose', to avoid the vulgarity. This can apply to bad luck or stupidity.

  • 1
    I think this completely represents the situation and can't help but smile at the imagery it creates. Thanks!
    – djv
    May 28, 2014 at 18:42
  • 6
    To me, this suggests someone who manages to turn a bad situation to their advantage, rather than someone whose actions succeed by luck.
    – rlms
    Jun 1, 2014 at 8:54

Dumb Luck: the way in which something good happens completely by chance, without being planned or deserved. (Sometimes emphasized by adding sheer before it: Sheer dumb luck.)

  • 11
    Literary usage example: "Five points will be awarded to each of you, for sheer dumb luck" - Minerva McGonagle.
    – DVK
    May 30, 2014 at 1:05
  • Please upvote a comment I left beneath my post english.stackexchange.com/questions/133409/… I also point out the discrepancy between the OP's request and the accepted answer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 22, 2014 at 8:38
  • @Mari-LouA in the title I specified I was looking for "an idiom for an action...". I accepted the other because it more represented an action. He messed up (fell in shit) but in the end he was rewarded (came out smelling like roses). Or he messed up but in the end he was rewarded (he had dumb luck). I upvoted this as well because it is close.
    – djv
    Jan 26, 2015 at 5:16

He lucked out.

luck out: To be a benefactor of good fortune rather than fall victim to circumstance.

  • This is the best -- it has the clear implication that things very easily could have turned out poorly. May 28, 2014 at 17:42
  • 1
    Is there an implication of stupidity preceding a person "lucking out"?
    – djv
    May 28, 2014 at 18:13
  • 1
    @DanVerdolino There can be. In this case, your friend made a stupid mistake, but he lucked out due to the fact that the error ended up making the firm money.
    – njboot
    May 28, 2014 at 18:30
  • Or dumb luck is common as well.
    – user39425
    May 28, 2014 at 21:30
  • 1
    @DanVerdolino Yes, that's a good counter-example. But, as I said it can be. It doesn't have to. It's all about the context. To "fall in sh-- and come out smelling like roses" principally implies, in my opinion, to have a situation turn out better than expected. There's no tacit implication of stupidity.
    – njboot
    May 30, 2014 at 23:37

The term for the result of the stupid action could be happy accident, meaning a blunder that ultimately proved advantageous. However, this term is occasionally used as an informal euphemism for "unplanned pregnancy", so use with caution.

An adjective used to describe such blind luck is fortuitous (there is also a noun fortuity). A single instance of blind luck is a stroke of luck.

Although this does not coincide precisely with the concept you are trying to express, the word serendipity means "the luck of finding something pleasant when you do not expect it".

  • 1
    Serendipity I think is more benign than the story given in the op. I would say the situation was serendipitous. But if, for example, there was a situation that was not nearly as nail biting, but turned out just as fortunate, then I would say that it was serendipitous.
    – user39425
    May 28, 2014 at 21:32
  • @fredsbend You're right; that's why I listed it as a possible alternative, and not as the most likely answer.
    – Ted Broda
    May 28, 2014 at 21:48

Well, there is one online dictionary that has followed fiction in defining pull a Homer this way.

There are some more widely-known, but also more less specifically defined, like "lucky skunk", "jammy bastard" and so on, that refer to the pure luck involved rather than the luck coming on the heels of a clearly incompetent act.

  • Jammy Bastard is good.
    – dwjohnston
    May 28, 2014 at 21:48
  • 1
    Yes, "pulled a Homer" is the only apt phrase given here for what the OP asked, though it's not common (yet). Had you not put it, I would have. It's funny how memory works: that episode of The Simpsons aired 22 and a half years ago, and although I may have seen it as a repeat, I know I haven't seen it in at least 10-15 years and only saw it once, and yet as soon as I read this question this instantly occurred to be just because it was so perfectly apt.
    – Chelonian
    May 31, 2014 at 6:46
  • "Jammy" surely. The "bastard" bit is in no way necessary. Aug 29, 2021 at 19:44

The person who submitted the risky trade is definitely a lucky fool. Actually the whole office is probably considered lucky fools, celebrating something that was so disruptive and risky.

  • 1
    They clearly weren't a lucky fool as in Nassim Taleb's coinage, because it was a mistake and they knew it was such. To be a lucky fool, they would have had to have made the double submission on purpose, thinking they had a masterful plan, have been wrong about the masterful plan, and then have succeeded due to luck. “Lucky fools do not bear the slightest suspicion that they may be lucky fools — by definition, they do not know that they belong to such category. They will act as if they deserved the money.”
    – Jon Hanna
    May 28, 2014 at 16:07
  • @JonHanna - They were lucky fools after they won. Instead of treating the situation as normal, they celebrated the outcome thinking that the idiot that hit submit twice was "smart". May 28, 2014 at 16:10
  • 2
    I'd celebrate too. I'd congratulate him on his luck too. I'd still make sure it never happened again, though.
    – Jon Hanna
    May 28, 2014 at 16:12
  • 1
    you're right - this anecdote explains an awful lot about boom to bust ;)
    – Cor_Blimey
    May 28, 2014 at 18:04

Several eighteenth-century (or older) proverbs address this situation. James Kelly, Complete Collection of Scottish Proverbs (1721) lists two relevant sayings (with his comments beneath each):

More by good luck, than by good guiding.

Spoken when a Thing, ill managed, falls out well.


Give a Man Luck, and cast him in the Sea.

Spoken when a Man is unexpectedly fortunate.

John Ray, Compleat Collection of English Proverbs (1737) offers two other proverbs on the same theme:

Fortune favours fools; or, fools have the best luck.


He rose with his Arse upwards. (A sign of good luck.)

  • +1 for "Fortune favours fools", it couldn't be more appropriate given the double meaning of "fortune" as luck/wealth. :-)
    – msb
    May 30, 2014 at 19:38

Similar to an answer suggested earlier, but one I've heard is "he fell into a barrel of dicks and came out sucking his thumb"

  • Hi, welcome to EL&U! This answer is actually kind of hilarious, but I'm thinking it might be better as a comment. It's pretty close to "fell in s**t and came out smelling like roses", right?
    – Ice-9
    May 29, 2014 at 16:09
  • 1
    I like this answer, actually this and "...smelling like roses" both describe the entire situation quite well, which is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!
    – djv
    May 29, 2014 at 16:55
  • Dicks? Ducks? Dorks? Please do take your time to properly spell out all words. Thank you.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jun 7, 2014 at 19:13

A common saying in Hebrew which fits this perfectly: "More luck than brains".

  • A variant I've used for decades is "more by luck than judgement". Any idea if the original is Hebrew or was translated from something else into Hebrew? Jun 2, 2014 at 12:48
  • @PeterBagnall: I'm not sure, but if I come across an answer I'll get back to you. The Hebrew "יותר מזל משכל" could be translated to "more luck than judgement" as well.
    – dotancohen
    Jun 3, 2014 at 6:06

One possibility... the phrase "throw underwear against the wall and see if it sticks" might be apt. In this case, they threw two... and they both stuck... imagine the odds!

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.