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I am looking for an idiom in English, if it exists.

In Czech it goes like "Z ciziho krev netece", literally "Someone else's property never bleeds" which was probably originally meant to describe the situation that you don't care that much if you damage other people's stuff as it's their problem (at least unless they catch you or are your friends and you borrowed something).

It has been used in various meaning since, though - mostly related to money lending or funding.

For my particular purpose the context is that of university funding - the lab leaders don't invest their own money in the research which allows them to be a bit more careless when it comes to spending.

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    Though not specifically related but the old saying 'It is easy to be brave from a safe distance' might apply to the context. – – user66974 Aug 25 '15 at 11:09
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    Although not exactly the same in meaning "moral hazard" is a term that comes to mind. It describes the phenomenon that one is more careless when the consequences of mistakes are reduced, by a third party (i.e. an insurance company) footing the bill. – Matt Aug 25 '15 at 11:19
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    @Thinkeye - 'belonging to someone else' is other's. – user66974 Aug 25 '15 at 11:31
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    Not close enough for me to post as an answer, but Drive it like it's a rental is a common tongue-in-cheek phrase usually pertaining to cars but extending to similar objects that denotes mistreating it because it is only loaned and the long term care of the item is of no importance to the person using it. – NibblyPig Aug 25 '15 at 15:29
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    Similarly to @SLC's example I've heard "No skis take rocks like rental skis." – dmckee Aug 25 '15 at 22:46

11 Answers 11

32

Skin in the game

From Wikipedia:

To have "skin in the game" is to have incurred monetary risk by being invested in achieving a goal.

The problem with the lab leaders is that they don't have any skin in the game.

  • I agree with this one, it is definitely the closest one that comes to mind and it is used a lot. – Tony Aug 27 '15 at 12:52
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    @Tony &EleventhDoctor This is a very attractive idiom, but regardless of the high score, I must disagree with its technical accuracy. I don't like being negative or picky, but I am certain the idiom has more to do with the positive, revealing responsibility or accountability rather than with being loose with someone else's money, or the negative, being irresponsible. Quite frankly, it has nothing to do with being loose with money. It concerns vested interest, not behavior. – chillin Aug 27 '15 at 13:43
  • @chillin, if you said "He doesn't have any skin in the game", it's implied that he doesn't care about the outcome. And the opposite for "He has skin in the game." The behavior is not described literally -- just the investment -- but the behavior is implied. The Czech saying asserts what this implies. Not an exact match, but IMO the closest. – Paul Draper Aug 27 '15 at 21:46
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    @justaguest78458 PaulDraper: I don't speak Czech. Nearly every other answer is a closer match to the literal request. The skin metaphor is referring to your money, not someone else's. If you had control of a funded money account that belonged to others and acted overly freely about spending it, saying you had no skin in the game instead would mean you didn't invest in your spending, so you don't care about it. This would mean you spend poorly, spend disinterested, not carefree as you expect. The skin/game idiom is great, but it does not match the question very closely! Sorry! – chillin Aug 28 '15 at 5:02
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    i.e. not caring about something != carefree ___ Skin in the game is about being blase, unimpressed, disinterested, rather than being loose, carefree, or intoxicated, as money sometimes does to people. Spending other peoples' money is never so dull you are not interested in the task, rather, spending other peoples' money is an intoxicating, judgment-confounding activity. – chillin Aug 28 '15 at 5:11
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Any allusion to "Other People's Money" or OPM will have this sense. The phrase has been in use since the 18th century to designate, variously, the moral obliquity of inherited wealth, the readiness of politicians to spend taxpayer wealth, and the desire of manufacturers to drive up prices by tariffs. Its most usual modern sense, leveraging investments with borrowed or deposited money and thus shuffling investment risk off on others while retaining investment gains, seems to date to 1914, when progressivist attorney Louis Brandeis (later a justice of the Supreme Court) collected his series of Harper's Weekly articles on the banking industry under the title Other People's Money / and How the Bankers Use It.

  • Added a link to help show that this is indeed A Thing, and in fact means just what the OQ was asking about. FWIW, there was a major movie about a leveraged takeover by this name in the 90's. – T.E.D. Aug 25 '15 at 16:17
  • @T.E.D. Thanks. And the movie wasn't that great but it had Danny DeVito, one of my favorite actors. – StoneyB Aug 25 '15 at 16:24
  • I'm quite attracted to the idea of Bitcoin, but I'd much rather spend OPM - not for buying my favourite brand of cigarettes though (SE = Someone Else's! :) – FumbleFingers Aug 25 '15 at 16:34
  • I really liked that movie. The 6 rating on IMDB shows most agree with you though. :-( – T.E.D. Aug 25 '15 at 17:37
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The company’s dime is a phrase I’ve heard a lot here in the US.

13

One idiom that I have heard used in this sense is playing with the house's money, which I believe refers to having won enough money at a casino that the player is now risking the profits from his previous winnings rather than the money he or she brought to the table in the first place.

Investopedia has this discussion of the "house money effect":

Definition of 'House Money Effect'

The tendency for investors to take more and greater risks when investing with profits. The house money effect gets its name from the casino phrase "playing with the house's money." The house money effect was first described by Richard H. Thaler and Eric J. Johnson of the Johnson Graduate School of Management of Cornell University.

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    Interesting, but more related to gambling rather than spending/investing public or private money. – user66974 Aug 25 '15 at 10:36
  • This is really interesting. I cannot use it just like it is because the people who will read it wouldn't understand (it's not intuitive and most of them are not familiar with gamble nor management, I think) but thanks for mentioning it! – justaguest78458 Aug 25 '15 at 13:05
  • @Josh61 it's widely used outside of a gambling context - but it definitely refers to spending money acquired in the early stages of a venture, rather than investor funds. For example, "Once we've sold these five prototypes, we're playing with house money to scale up production further." – LessPop_MoreFizz Aug 27 '15 at 1:27
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It's a well-known phenomenon, popularized by Milton Friedman. However in English there may be nothing more succinct than (people are less careful when) "spending someone else's money".

8

The British idiom "easy come easy go" focuses on the mind of the person with "easy money."

As a result it covers many more situations than state funding; the example given (Cambridge) mentions gambling, but it could be a rebate, money on the pavement, trust funds. It would be the natural way to describe funds not earned by personal effort.

easy come easy go informal
said when something, ​especially ​money, is ​easily got and then ​soon ​spent or ​lost:

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    -1 The phrase easy come easy go is an idiom related to spending money as soon as it arrives; there is no implication of it being someone else's money – AndyT Aug 25 '15 at 16:15
  • -1 @ Andy. I disagree; especially in the context of the OP's question, "Easy come, Easy go" is very apropos! Government grants and other funding are monies awarded, not out-of-pocket, or from one's own personal resources or hard-earned income. – W9WBH Aug 27 '15 at 0:05
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    Actually Andy, the idiom that you are describing is: when money is "burning a hole in their pocket." – W9WBH Aug 27 '15 at 0:23
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One of my late grandfather's sayings was "Taxpayers' money is worth a penny a bucketful". I've no idea if he invented it or got it from some other source (he was an avid reader), but the meaning is clear enough.

5

A chinese proverb says Sons spend their father's money with carefree hearts.

from ABC Dictionary of Chinese Proverbs (Yanyu) by John S. Rohsenow

2

Much more broadly, you may have a use for "Monopoly Money", from the fake bills used in the game Monopoly, but I think you have better answers already above. In American English, I have heard/used these most often: "Skin In The Game", "OPM", "House Money", "Company's Dime" -- each with its own subtleties. Chicken/Pig variations and fables are great, though they may be less commonly understood, as the metaphor(s) may not be familiar to all. Chinese proverbs and other self-explanatory phrases are usually longer, though allowing more shading, as you are telling a story, and could make up one of your own. Good Luck.

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    The idiom "Monopoly money" generally refers to money (or a resource) that is considered worthless in terms of purchasing power, not money that is spent freely and without concern. – recognizer Aug 26 '15 at 13:53
  • Also, I'm not going to downvote you for this as you're a new user, but it's not constructive to write an answer in which you primarily recommend and critique other people's answers. Those answers are already present, and have their own comment threads. – recognizer Aug 26 '15 at 13:53
  • Recognizer, Thanks for the meaning correction; I hear it misused a lot with that interpretation implied. Asking four other PIs here suggests the sense have I picked up is not uncommon in our circles, but we are in Science, not English, and greatly value data. Thanks also for the rules/etiquette guidance; I tried to read well before posting but missed the requirement of answer orthogonality, and was trying to offer one subjective slant on American English, as I know it, with the suggestions offered so far, which crosses multiple answers by nature. --Mark – eMark Aug 27 '15 at 15:33
  • Actually, the term "monopoly money" to refer to numbers indicating real value that you have no personal stake in is fairly common in my experience. A lot of accountants look at it this way. – KeithS Aug 27 '15 at 22:25
1

The fable of the chicken and the pig somewhat applies. The lab director or department discretionary budget is involved; the specific professor's grant money and reputation is committed.

1

A fool and his money are easily parted! Investors never invest their own money or they may lose their shirt, so do not hand over a blank check, or else they control the purse strings, and with no dog in the fight it's no skin off their nose if they act like they own the place and spend money like water.

Combining idioms to achieve the requested meaning results in cliché, but these could all relate independently. These may be useful, and were not mentioned elsewhere.

protected by Mari-Lou A Oct 3 '15 at 6:54

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