2

More specifically, someone who might open "undesirable doors" and fill you with profound regret for letting him/her into your life.

The idiom I'm trying to find would be used in the following situations:

  • A married man hesitates about going on a date with a woman he met recently and thinks: "I'd better keep away from her. She looks like a real ...................
  • A new neighbour has been acting too friendly but, in your judgement, his personality looks like trouble. You decide to put up a barrier because chances are he is a ...............

Is there a metaphor for that? I'm not looking for the word "psychopath" or one of its synonyms.

8
  • 3
    You can simply say, "I'd better keep away from her- She looks like trouble!" – Jim Sep 16 '14 at 16:38
  • 1
    slippery slope relates to the opening undesirable doors but doesn't fit with your examples. If you can change the examples to She looks like she'd lead you down a slippery slope and ...chances are he'll lead you down a slippery slope it would work OK. That might be more idiom than metaphor. Doesn't describe a person either. – Frank Sep 16 '14 at 16:45
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    I think the married man who takes a woman on a date is the troublemaker, not the woman. Victim blaming, as usual. ') – anongoodnurse Sep 16 '14 at 23:22
  • @medica That's opinion. – Centaurus Sep 16 '14 at 23:24
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    Ah, but I don't think it's ok for Americans to do it either. But, as you said, it's an opinion. :) – anongoodnurse Sep 17 '14 at 1:19
4

This question seems to be asking for a term for a person for whom you have a hunch that they may be a troublemaker, but no real proof. Some of the answers thus far seem to be glomming "looks like/seems like" onto synonyms for troublemaker.

If you only have a feeling that they might cause trouble in the future, they may be a

loose cannon

or

wild card

1
  • A "loose cannon" sounds more like the phrase I'm looking for. – Centaurus Sep 16 '14 at 22:22
7

'ticking time bomb'--do not approach it and use extreme care. A person or situation that will probably become dangerous or harmful in the future.--Merriam-Webster.com

3
  • Sounds perfect. Can you provide links to this idiom? Or have you coined it yourself? – Centaurus Sep 16 '14 at 22:31
  • This phrase has been in my and others idiom vocabulary for a long time. It's a genuine idiom that applies to both persons and potentially explosive situations (especially in international politics). e.g., 'The situation in 'X country' is a ticking time bomb.' But I'll try to get some authority for this phrase. – user3847 Sep 17 '14 at 0:05
  • 1
    'Time bomb'--A person or situation that will probably become dangerous or harmful in the future.--(Merriam-Webster). The 'ticking' is usually added for emphasis. – user3847 Sep 17 '14 at 0:21
6

The first phrase that comes to my mind is an accident waiting to happen. It is a relatively common idiom:

enter image description here

You could also extend it to s/he looks like a problem waiting to happen.

Another alternative would be the simple s/he looks like trouble which you've already used in your question. Finally, you could also say s/he looks like a troublemaker but that is more specific. It implies that they would actively cause trouble.

2

A religious phrase (especially for the first example) is an occasion of sin

an external set of circumstances—whether of things or persons—which either because of their special nature or because of the frailty common to humanity or peculiar to some individual, incite or entice one to sin. [Wikipedia]

More secular terms

  • trouble (included in question)
  • troublemaker
  • nothing-but-trouble
  • asking for trouble
  • bad actor
  • mischief-maker
  • can of worms
  • hassle
  • tsuris
  • an accident waiting to happen
  • a car wreck
  • stirring up a hornet's nest
3
  • Shouldn't that be an occasion for sin? An occasion of sin sounds like the sin has already been committed. – terdon Sep 16 '14 at 16:28
  • No, not a religious context. It would be more like "an accident waiting to happen" Trouble, troublemaker, nothing-but-trouble and mischief-maker don't sound like metaphors to me. – Centaurus Sep 16 '14 at 16:28
  • @terndon It's a phrase cemented in form in Catholic teaching (at least as taught through the 1950s). – bib Sep 16 '14 at 16:31
0

They could be a bad hat or (more old-fashioned) a bad egg.

0

A married man hesitates about going on a date with a woman he met recently and thinks: "I'd better keep away from her. She looks like she may be the scourge of all happiness.

A new neighbor has been acting too friendly but, in your judgement, his personality looks like trouble. You decide to put up a barrier because chances are he will turn out to be the scourge of the neighborhood.

0

Wolf in sheep's clothing. Pandora's Box. Poke in the Eye. Shot in the foot. A bridge too far. A can of worms.

1
  • "She looks like a "Pandora's Box." seems to fit. – Centaurus Sep 16 '14 at 22:21
-1

The word is troublemaker.

Since you are saying that the person looks like (appears to be) a troublemaker, you are not claiming that the person is a troublemaker. You are saying only that the person is potentially a troublemaker.

  • She looks like a real troublemaker.

  • Chances are that he is a troublemaker.

(Yes, there is a difference between (a) saying that a person has the potential of becoming a troublemaker and (b) saying that a person seems to be a troublemaker. But that difference is probably not important in your context. If you are talking about what the person seems like, then it is pretty clear that you do not know the person well enough to say that the person is a potential troublemaker (i.e., s?he is not currently a troublemaker, but has the potential of becoming one).

2
  • "A troublemaker" isn't a metaphor. – Centaurus Sep 16 '14 at 22:23
  • OK, if you want a metaphor then use bad hat. – Drew Sep 16 '14 at 22:26

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