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There is an idiom in my language, which literally sounds like "I'm not an expert when it comes to kinds of feces". Which means that one considers all the instances of some group as equally bad, not to make an opinion about any (for example, politicians). Is there an exact equivalent in English for it?

The original version is in Ukrainian. It is "В сортах гівна не розуміюся". In Russian it is "В сортах говна не разбираюсь". It's a relatively young, but very common expression.

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    Certainly, "I don't know shit about ..." is a common (though somewhat rude) expression. – Hot Licks Mar 24 '15 at 22:54
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    Actually, I think the short answer is "No, there isn't an exact equivalent in English". Although it's one of those concepts where a borrowed foreign word or phrase would be useful . . – peterG Mar 25 '15 at 0:36
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    I'm curious to know what the original phrase and language is for that statement. – Neil Mar 25 '15 at 21:57
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    @Neil it's in Ukrainian, and original version is "В сортах гівна не розуміюся". In Russian it is "В сортах говна не разбираюсь". It's relatively young, but very common expression here. – Aeternia Mar 25 '15 at 22:04

16 Answers 16

12

LET GOD SORT THEM OUT

The OP has stated that the phrase in question, "means that one considers all the instances of some group as equally bad ... "

The meaning of the OP's phrase is about not caring, as opposed to, not knowing. Additionally of great significance, the phrase is an expression of vituperation and disdain, conveying a fundamental lack of concern or moral consideration for any who fall within this category (choose your favorite 'scapegoat') because these have been judged to be the equivalent of "feces," and there are no "grades" of feces, each and all are merely and only, "shit."

While admittedly not an exact equivalent, there is a phrase which pithily sums up the same blithe lack of moral concern and invective, “Kill them all; let God sort them out." This phrase is considered to be a derivation of "Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius", a phrase allegedly spoken by the Papal legate and Cistercian abbot Arnaud Amalric, prior to the Massacre at Béziers, a massacre in the French town of Béziers that formed the first major military action of the Albigensian Crusade. A direct translation of the Latin phrase would be "Kill them. For the Lord knows those that are His own." See, Wikipedia Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius. The phrase was possibly a misunderstood reference to 2 Tim. 2:19 which, in part, reads, “The Lord knoweth them that are his”.

  • Both translations have the incorrect tense. A more precise translation would be "The Lord shall know His own" – Shadur Mar 26 '15 at 10:42
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    The Russian proverb intends that all consideration is unworthy. Amalric's phrase intends that some are good and some are bad and that it is too hard to try to spare the good, who will go to heaven anywhere. – Mitch Mar 26 '15 at 19:06
  • @Mitch - You'll note that I proffered a contemporary AmE derivative of Amalric's original Latin, adopted by the US Marines & Green Berets, two organizations not known for the subtlety or sensitivity to nuance you introduce. But thank you, brother. ;-) – user98990 Mar 26 '15 at 19:21
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    Your expression is a good one and related to the OP's, but I can't help pointing out exactly how they are the same and different. I don't think Aeternia would be able to replace his Russian phrase with yours, despite their similarity. – Mitch Mar 26 '15 at 21:00
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    This is very far from OP's question. "Let god sort them out" is used in totally different contexts (i.e. don't judge, let got sort them out, usually as an imperative), I think you'll almost never find a case where these expressions can be substituted which by definition means, it is a poor analogue. – user3467349 Mar 26 '15 at 21:01
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To minimize the distinction we say, One's as bad as the other:

Or, if we leave room for more than two:

One's as bad as the next.

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    This seems more appropriate as the original doesn't imply killing anyone! – matt freake Mar 26 '15 at 11:28
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    @Disco, the OP is a sarcastic metaphor intended to convey contempt for some group of people one considers, not merely "bad", but so bad they are designated "feces" (the metaphor) and, therefore, beneath further consideration. If you read a metaphorical phrase literally, you've only partially understood the phrase. The phrase I offered as a rough equivalent, while not employing the metaphor "feces" (or "shit"), does manage to nicely convey the sarcasm and contempt for those in a category unworthy of being "graded" or "sorted." – user98990 Mar 26 '15 at 18:52
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    @Disco. The bit about killing is really a "prologue", and as such, ancillary, to the culminating component of this phrase, "Let God sort them out." which conveys a similar sense of the OP's sarcasm and contempt. The answer that you feel is more appropriate misses that extreme contempt, which is the part I though most needed to be expressed. I couldn't find an idiom which was an exact equivalent, so I went for what seemed closest. – user98990 Mar 26 '15 at 19:04
  • Thanks for the reply Little Eva. I guess I've never heard Let God Sort Them Out used outside a context where killing is kind-of on-the-cards. I've only really heard it used by people involved in the military, or by people who, in a different world, would quite like to kill the people involved – matt freake Mar 27 '15 at 11:03
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An exact match:

I don't know shit about shit!

From The Slangman Guide to Dirty English: Dangerous Expressions Americans Use., by David Burke:

"I don't know shit about shit, but I know right from wrong!"

From An Uprising of Angels, by Marc D. Baldwin:

“I don't know shit about shit. Okay?

From Four-letter Films: Taboo Language in Movies, by Gabriele Azzaro:

Look, I admit I don't know shit about shit.

In all of the above references, the meaning of the phrase is roughly: I know very little about [things] that are worthless to me, which is derived by combining the meaning of the slang phrase don't know shit and the slang shit.

The slang shit refers to, among other things, a worthless person or thing:

From Oxford Dictionaries Online

noun ...

2.0 A contemptible or worthless person.

3.0 Something worthless; garbage; nonsense:

The common slang expression: not know shit, builds off of the meaning of shit, and means that the subject knows nothing:

From Oxford Dictionaries Online

Not know anything.

If someone says: I don't know shit about politicians, they are implying that they know [or care] extremely little about politicians. When someone says: I don't know shit about shit, they double down on the contempt, by implying that the matter at hand is worthless, and they know [or care] very little about it.


Not wishing to double down on a taboo, one might choose a slightly more formal,
I don't give a shit:

(about someone/something)

tv. to care about someone or something. (Usually objectionable. Often negative.)

I don't give a shit about politicians! This approaches the exact match, because people who don't give a shit about shit, don't know shit about shit.


Many diminish the taboo (and contempt) by replacing the word shit with:

Adding the word flying into the expression seems to increase the sense of antipathy.
I don't give a flying:

  • f#@&
  • fig
  • shit
  • fart
  • leap
  • flip
  • hoot
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    There are also infinite variations- I don't give a fuck, I don't give a rat's ass, I don't give a damn, I couldn't give a ha'penny jizz. – Parthian Shot Mar 24 '15 at 21:28
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    Close but "not caring" is not the same as "not knowing about". – DJClayworth Mar 24 '15 at 21:34
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    +1 although, it's not massively well known, possibly because it can't be used in newspapers etc. – chim Mar 25 '15 at 12:52
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    My greatest weakness in communication is my stubborn refusal to think the way everyone else does, @LittleEva, but I am learning to at least honor the way others see it. Your reasoning makes very good sense to me, and the OP agrees with you! I am already a legend in my own mind, so what's 20 reputation points between us? Less than feces, actually ;-) Let us rejoice together that we are native speakers of one of the most powerfully flexible languages ever to grace the planet. – ScotM Mar 25 '15 at 15:42
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    @DJClayworth: The speaker of such an expression clearly DOES know enough about the objects of discussion to have judged them ALL to be shit; and, having made that judgment, is indicating he does not CARE to know more. – Brian Hitchcock Mar 26 '15 at 6:18
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It's all the same to me:

something that you say when it is not important to you what happens

Billy Ray Cyrus wrote It's all the Same To Me about a bad experience in love, where all the gory details became irrelevant:

Refrain:
You can put me on some island In the middle of the sea
Or lock me in a prison With no chance of ever being free
Or run a dagger through my heart Stand back and watch me bleed
Oh, baby you can leave, It's all the same to me...

Without you, It's all the same to me

I could never love someone else
If I can't have you You might as well leave
Yeah baby if you leave It's all the same to me

12

Not an exact match, but "six of one, half a dozen of the other" could probably be used in many of the same contexts.

It doesn't quite capture the negative connotations of the OP's phrase (it could conceivably be used to describe equally-good options as well as equally-bad). But it could certainly be used to describe politicians that are considered to be as bad as each other.

5

If your idiom means "I don't make distinctions among things that are all meaningless." then I would suggest:

I don't pick fly-shit out of pepper.

or

You shouldn't try to pick the fly-shit out of the pepper.

This is a way to tell someone that they are concerned with trivial differences that do not matter in dealing with the general situation.

  • that's a weird idiom...! :) But I wouldn't want fly shit in my pepper (though it may be futile to attempt to pick it out) – Anentropic Mar 25 '15 at 11:26
  • Mike, I met the idiom you suggest, but in positive form, like "he's one who pick fly-shit out of pepper", and meaning was that person is too picky and looks for drawbacks in everything. In my language the equivalent would sound "he's one who looks for bones in milk". But i wonder if English native speakers use the way you suggest, because i don`t know that. – Aeternia Mar 25 '15 at 16:20
  • @Aeternia Not related to the question, but as you can see from the formatting on your comment here, backticks (`) are not the same as apostrophes (' or ), and using them as such will cause your text to look like code on StackExchange sites. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 25 '15 at 16:23
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet thank you, i`m new to this. – Aeternia Mar 25 '15 at 16:29
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    @Aeternia I have heard the forms I listed used by native English speakers in factories in the United States. – Mike Mar 25 '15 at 16:35
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Assuming that you're masking an expletive with "faeces", then:

"It's all the same shit to me" - indicating that every example within a set is just as bad as every other example.

A milder version - "it's all the same crap to me", and more family friendly "it all smells the same to me".

5

The accepted answer lacks the impact and colour of the original: replacing fecal expertise by a reference to the Maker doesn't strike me as the best way to find an equivalence.

I would probably go with

same shit, different flies

This implies that there are differences (the flies), but that those differences are meaningless when it comes down to what the thing itself really is (shit). One who was cynical enough to use this to refer to politicians might use it in the sense of "all politicians are shit; whatever difference they might have is irrelevant".

Here's an example from the web, appropriately about politics:

In return the people became disinterested in Politics - A Change of Government? "Why bother?", they said - "Same shit, different flies".

  • I've always heard this as "Same shit, different asshole". – Matthew Read Mar 26 '15 at 15:44
  • thank you, this one covers a part of cases the original can be applied. however, it doesn't reflect the context, according to which a talker isn't an expert. he might be as well a political analyst, who made a research and came with a conclusion like "yes you may vote this year, but it's same shit, different flies". This sentence doesn't show his ignorance at all, it represents the opposite connotation. – Aeternia Mar 26 '15 at 22:32
  • Right. I wasn't aware the "I don't know" part was literal; I took it to be metaphorical. If that's relevant, then you are right. And you are also right this phrase implies the opposite: not ignorance, but knowledge that they are the same kind of shit. – jja Mar 26 '15 at 22:40
3

Tariq Ali, a left-wing writer, made a famous comment (I believe he was talking about the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War):

"Given the choice between syphilis and gonorrhea, I choose neither."

3

One possibility albeit without the negative connotation but in terms of expressions that can be used to express the indifference and generalization present in the former idioms would be:

two sides of the same coin

Or

slices of the same cake

Googling I also found (the following) - which does have a negative connotation, though more literary than slang - But I could not find a historical usage for this, if someone knows of one I would be interested.

different heads of the same hydra

  • You can further this metaphor by making the item negative. An easy example, since the original references feces anyways, you can use "dung cake" or "shitty coin." If that doesn't have enough invective, you can make them worse. – trlkly Mar 27 '15 at 2:54
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    I really racked my head for an English equivalent and couldn't think of one - it's a useful expression and general enough that people may understand the verbatim translation anyways: e.g. I'm not an expert in the varieties of shit. Otherwise Baudelaire might have something for this. – user3467349 Mar 27 '15 at 2:58
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For a fairly colloquial equivalent, "There ain't a dime's worth of difference." Made famous by George Wallace as a comment on the Democratic & Republican parties.

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The usual expression is "You don't know shit about that." I don't often hear "I don't know shit about that", but it comes up once in awhile.

Related expressions:

He don't know jack shit.
He don't know jack.

Possibly from "You don't know shit from Shinola", where Shinola is a type of shoe polish. (from Wikipedia)

An statement of opposite meaning would be "I know my shit" meaning I have a very good understanding of what I am expected to understand.

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    I think this expression has a completely different meaning from the OP's. "You don't know shit about __" is usually derogatory. On the other hand, the OP's idiom is for someone saying that "I don't care about distinctions between these awful people/ things, since they're all shit anyway". – sumelic Mar 24 '15 at 22:59
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Not sure how localised this is, but:

You can't polish a turd

Seems appropriate, insofar as whichever choice you pick, or whatever you do to it, it's still a turd no matter what.

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    This refers to taking something that is bad and trying to make it look good, not saying that a group of things are all equally bad. – Matt E. Эллен Mar 26 '15 at 8:46
  • Besides, it's evidently not true – jja Mar 26 '15 at 22:44
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If I have understood the OP correctly, the Ukrainian saying В сортах гівна не розуміюся expresses a sense of frustration or futility when faced with a range of equally bad options.

A phrase which has its origins in ancient Greece and has been used in English since the 14th century is:

the lesser of two evils

Example:

I didn't like either politician, so I voted for the lesser of two evils.

In other words, whatever choice we make will be unsatisfactory.

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    No, I afraid, the original has a different connotation, closer to “I don't want even know the difference between these two evils, the more to choose between them”. One can apply it to answer questions like: “Who's music album should I buy as present to my 10-year old neice, Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga?” - “Can`t help you, в сортах гівна не розуміюся”. Or “Which Windows version has less bugs?” - “I'm on Linux, в сортах гівна не розуміюся – Aeternia Mar 26 '15 at 8:03
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    @Aeternia Ah! Then I'd say: I couldn't care less, they're both shit/crap. A less derogatory form would be to say: They're both rubbish anyway. – Mari-Lou A Mar 26 '15 at 8:13
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It's not quite what you asked for, but when describing a situation where you find everything equally bad, that would usually be called a rats nest. Claiming that everyone in that group is "a rat" and showing that the speaker is looking down on them.

I can't tell one politician from another, really, and I don't want to get involved in that whole rats nest.

There's a similar expression, about not knowing the difference between two things you don't understand.

It's all Greek to me

0

"I'm not an expert when it comes to kinds of feces, but I know pieces of shit when I see em!" Not a direct correlation, but I think it gets the point across.

protected by Matt E. Эллен Mar 27 '15 at 18:59

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