8

I remember that there was an idiom that describes something that doesn't happen often, but happens more than needed when it finally does.

Hypothetical scenario that could be described by such an idiom: Let's say that I spend the whole year asking for a Playstation 4. When Christmas comes around three family members offer me the same console.

  • 9
    How do you like "it never rains but it pours"? – Dan Bron Jun 24 '15 at 9:50
34

An alternative saying to the good one suggested by @Dan Bron is:

When it rains, it pours

  • When something good or bad occurs, it usually occurs more than once and often within a short period of time:

    • “I have a new supervisor at the office, three new assistants to train, and enough work to keep me busy for months — when it rains, it pours.” (AHD)
  • Just an explanation why I didn't wait for Dan's answer — just so it doesn't look like Josh stole his answer ;) — this is the specific form that I remember, and sounds better to me. – Smig Jun 24 '15 at 10:07
  • There's also "doesn't rain but it pours" -- which has a bit more negative connotation. – jmoreno Jun 25 '15 at 15:05
17

There is the common cliché that you

“waited all day for a bus, and then three came along at once”.

Wikipedia mentions this saying.

There are many internet examples; there are many tweaks ('You wait ages for a bus... then FORTY-THREE come along ...'!), and even a scientific analysis of why it happens in a New Scientist article:

Anyone who has waited for a bus knows the routine: you wait far longer than you should, then three come along at once. The problem, called "platooning", plagues buses, trains and even elevators....

The expression is also used metaphorically; here is an example from The Wordfoolery Blog.

  • I've always thought of the multiple bus idiom to be a British thing... Is it used more widely? – RemarkLima Jun 25 '15 at 7:30
  • NBC News is not all that British. / X-Press magazine (Australia) uses a variant. / The author of the 'Wordfoolery Blog', who mentions it, is apparently based in Ireland. / ... But it's doubtless correct to say 'It's mainly a British thing'. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 25 '15 at 10:43
16

Another idiom is either feast or famine. This refers to exactly the type of situation you describe. One experiences a dearth of something they need (a metaphorical famine), except at those times when they receive an overabundance (a feast), possibly including more of the needed thing than they have any use for.

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When something terrible happens, we brace for something else. “Everything comes in threes.”

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Here's the actual saying or idiom you are asking about. I believe it stands very well on its own, not requiring any metaphorical description:

"It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it happens all the time."

It's a beauty in my book, as there are things that we experience that appear to happen just like that. It could be used as a useful addon to amplify certain aspects of "Murphy's Law", as well as in many other places.

This my friends, is the definitive answer to the question posted. It should be given the green check mark, NOT the one checked above.

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