I would like you to suggest a more apt/suitable idioms and expressions in the following senses:

  1. Everybody knew it would eventually happen at the end of the day. After waiting for some time like a year or so, he/she makes a big/major mistake as Donald Trump did by urging ban on all Muslims coming to the U.S.

  2. Some people make an irreparable/fatal mistake as Rick Perry did in the presidential debate in 2011. He couldn't remember which three agencies he would eliminate as POTUS and it was the major turning point for his doomed candidacy.

An idiom like drop the ball doesn't necessarily convey the meaning as it doesn't sound like the mistake is as big/serious/fatal as the above-mentioned ones based on the below definition:

Make an error; miss an opportunity. For example, She really dropped the ball when she forgot to call back, or He dropped the ball, turning down their offer.

[American Heritage Dictionary]

Are there any more suitable idioms/phrases that can signify or express an once-(or twice)-in-your-lifetime mistake that is so serious and rare that it may change the course of your life?

  • 3
    A sporting metaphor not serious enough? I refer you to the late, great Bill Shankly, manager of Liverpool FC: 'Some people think football is a matter of life and death. But it's more important than that.' Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 7:21
  • You should be aware that "dropping the ball" has two contradictory connotations, and the meaning can only be understood in context.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 14:11

5 Answers 5


One popular expression I have heard in animes is that he made a blunder of a lifetime. While I couldn't find any reference for this idiom, here's a link to dictionary meaning.

According to the freedictionary:

A mistake typically caused by ignorance or carelessness.



Maybe this would suit your use?

shoot oneself in the foot

Foolishly harm one's own cause, as in He really shot himself in the foot, telling the interviewer all about the others who were applying for the job he wanted. This colloquial term alludes to an accidental shooting as opposed to a deliberate one done so as to avoid military service.

[shoot oneself in the foot. (n.d.) The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. (2003, 1997). Retrieved December 14 2015 from http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/shoot+oneself+in+the+foot .]

If you shoot yourself in the foot, it's not likely to be more than a once in a lifetime mistake, although doing it twice is a remote possibility.

  • It is definitely the metaphor that is in current use. But having argued strongly on this site that the meaning has become corrupted from the time it referred to the practice of soldiers in the trenches in WWI deliberately giving themselves a non-fatal wound, I hesitate to recommend it.
    – WS2
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 8:12
  • @WS2 - Is that true even if the soldier keeps a stiff upper lip?
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 14:10

Most of the prior suggestions blew it. They had a chance but they failed to convey the intended sense of 'inevitability.' It would be fine if they combined nicely with the adverb "finally" but alas, they don't or at least they don't in my opinion. All hope is not lost though: I would posit that "Donald Trump Finally Blew It." is headline worthy material.

I mean that literally. Variants of the phrase are all over the press already. See "Has Trump Finally Blown It?" By Noel Young for The Drum and "How Donald Trump Blew It" by Francis Wilkinson for Bloomburg View for several examples.

As for what it means:

Blow it

(also blow your chance) informal. C2 to ​fail to take ​advantage of an ​opportunity by doing or saying something ​wrong: I really ​blew it when I ​turned down that ​job ​offer, didn't I?

The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus

Now I'm not sure since the word has many senses but as far as explaining it goes, I suspect blow is being used in this sense of the word:

  1. The fatal stroke; a stroke that kills; hence, death.

The American Dictionary of the English Language, written by Noah Webster in 1828

"It" as a pronoun probably refers to whatever the blown opportunity was. Thus "You blew it" means, "You killed your chances."

Anyway, I may've blown it myself by opening this answer in such a disparaging way. I'm sorry for that. I can only hope that you folk can find it in your hearts to forgive me for the irresistible urge I had to demonstrate its usage whilst in the midst of making my point. T_T


I think a more modern expression which sums up what he did would be "jumping the shark".

  • Well, since Fonzie "jumped the shark" on Happy Days in 1977, I wouldn't exactly call that "more modern" ...
    – Robusto
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 3:05

The metaphor about shooting oneself in the foot is a possibility, but having argued strongly on this site that the meaning has become corrupted from the time it referred to the practice of soldiers in the trenches in WWI deliberately giving themselves a non-fatal wound, I hesitate to recommend it.

My suggestion therefore is that Donald Trump has become hoist with his own petard.

As Shakespeare said:

1604 Shakespeare Hamlet iii. iv. 185 + 6 Tis the sport to haue the enginer Hoist with his owne petar. (OED)

  • Thank you for your answer. Can you kindly show me the link about "shoot oneself in the foot"? Thanks.
    – user140086
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 8:38
  • 2
    But "hoist with his own petard" means that someone did something which was intended to damage someone else and which has backfired and damaged himself. How does this apply in this case? (According to BBC News, "Mr Trump remains the most popular Republican candidate according to most national polls.")
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 9:22
  • 1
    @AndrewLeach Ted Cruz passed Donald Trump in Iowa according to the latest Des Moines Poll. He is not the only example in the context.
    – user140086
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 10:12
  • @AndrewLeach I believe Rathony has answered the question. We shall see, but if both Nigel Farage thinks he has inclined too far, and Michael Portillo mentions his name in the same breath as Hitler's, I rather suspect he may have reached his nemesis.
    – WS2
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 6:52

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