We use a proverb that implies "A bad property (i.e., a thing belonging to someone) or item should inevitably be tolerated/kept by its owner" when we want to say "This bad item won't be accepted by anyone else except its owner, no one is obliged to get, accept or tolerate it but its owner." We use this funny and sarcastic proverb specially when we are returning something to its owner/seller because we have noticed it is faulty.

For example:

  1. Suppose I have a hairdryer that has some problems in turning on and off. Some day you (as my roommate in a dormitory) ask to borrow it while you know it is a faulty device. When you are returning it to me, I say: "You can keep it for yourself if you like!" and then you reply smilingly and sarcastically: "Oh, no! Thanks, but a bad item should inevitably be kept by its owner!" (In other words, you'd better keep it for yourself, no one is ready to accept it even for free;or :don't try to give/ sell a faulty item to others.)

  2. A factory produces a product that customers stop buying because it hasn't achieved good reputation in the market, and those who have bought it are trying to return it. When they are asked the reason they say: "This is a useless and faulty product, so it's better be kept by its owners (producers); and it serves them (the owners) right that no one buy this poor quality product."

Is there any equivalent to this Persian proverb?


1-The word for word translation of this funny proverb is "A bad possession/ property (eventually) would be stuck in its owner's beard !"(somethng will be stuck in someone's beard: is an idiom and means someone won't be get rid of something!)

2- Actually we use this proverb mostly when we are talking with our friends while rejecting a faulty item they are offering us, or when we are angry at a seller whom we think has deceived us by selling a faulty item and now we want to return it.

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    You might want to use caution, in the English-speaking world this might be perceived as more insulting than you actually intend. There's actually a common English saying with the opposite intent, "never look a gift horse in the mouth." This represents a cultural norm that gifts should always be received with gratitude, even when they are of very poor quality. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 20:04
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    Thanks, @Chris Sunami, I see.Actually we use this proverb mostly when we are talikng with our friends, or we are angry at a seller whom we think has deceived us by selling that faulty item. We have the same saying in Farsi too (never look a gift horse in the mouth.) :)
    – Soudabeh
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 20:17
  • What is the proverb in Farsi?
    – ermanen
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 22:26
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    @ermanen, it is :" مال بد بيخ ريش صاحبش"-(male bad bikhe rishe sahebash).
    – Soudabeh
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 5:21
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    You do write some lovely questions so full of delightful details, I wish half the questions posted on ELU took half the time you spend in writing yours.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 18:05

16 Answers 16


Thanks, but no thanks.

This expression can be used in situations other than the ones you describe; nonetheless, it can convey that same meaning in just four words.

Note how TFD lists this idiom, and provides a meaning that is similar to your hair dryer scenario:

Thanks, but no thanks.

Inf. Thank you, but I am not interested. (A way of turning down something that is not very desirable.) Alice: How would you like to buy my old car? Jane: Thanks, but no thanks.

  • pretty clever ....
    – Fattie
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 21:07

There's no proverb, but there's a common saying: "This thing is more trouble than it is worth." That is the closest US English idiom in terms of meaning and intention to what you asked, but there's no implication that the creator should own/use the item. We tend to be direct about our dissatisfaction with a service or product, to the point where many cultures would consider it confrontational.

Additionally, in US English, a faulty product is idiomatically referred to as "a lemon". We tend to reserve usage of that saying to mechanical objects that don't work properly, like a car or an appliance. You wouldn't, for example, refer to a person, house or cake as "a lemon", if it were bad in some way.

"You sold me a lemon. I want a refund. This thing is more trouble than it's worth."

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    +1 I think "A Lemon" is probably the closest I've heard in American English
    – Sidney
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 22:17
  • I think many UK speakers are aware of and would understand this usage of "lemon", even though it's not really used over here. Closest equivalent used in the UK I can think of (without swearing!) is "dud" which specifically means something useless and defective, or "millstone" meaning something that is a liability that is hard to get rid of, but it's not exactly the same. Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 17:30

If sarcasm and proverb usage is what you want, you can twist the classic "one man's trash is another man's treasure," by saying something like "sometimes, one man's trash is also another man's trash."

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    that's quite clever
    – Fattie
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 21:07
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    Or something like "Just because it's one man's treasure doesn't mean it's not another man's trash", if the owner likes the item despite it being faulty.
    – Marsh
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 23:54

The expression:

You couldn't give it away

Can be used to describe an item that is effectively useless, such that even attempts to give it away for free are refused.


"A Park Worth Millions, and He Can't Give It Away"

(Due to high operating costs).

  • This is good in the 3rd person ("I thought I'd finally sold the chocolate fire-engine, but the buyer backed out at the last minute" // "I'm not surprised, you couldn't give that junk away!"), a good 2nd person variant for the person rejecting the thing is "I wouldn't take that if you paid me" Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 17:26

I don't think there is an equivalent for that exact saying, but the the object itself might be called a white elephant: something that requires a lot of care and money and that gives little profit or enjoyment. A white elephant is also said to be "more trouble than it is worth."

So your room-mate's repsonse, might be:

No, thank you. That hair dryer is too much of a white elephant for me.

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    @Soudabeh - I think that would be well understood, but not well received, please see my comment on your original post. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 20:06
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    The original white elephants were real animals given by the King of Siam (now Ceylon) to courtiers he wished to ruin. They were considered divine, and hence had to be kept in very expensive luxury, but by the same token the gift of one was considered a great honour and could not be refused. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_elephant Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 20:39
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    i feel this is related, but not a drop-in replacement.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 21:07
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    @PaulJohnson Did you mean Thailand? Ceylon is also known as Sri Lanka, which is thousands of kilometers away from Thailand.
    – March Ho
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 0:50
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    I think this is not quite right, because it denotes a precious possession that is enormously expensive to maintain, rather than something that no one will take from you because it is worthless.
    – Beta
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 4:23

This does not directly speak to your literal proverb, but there is the saying: make lemonade from lemons, which is used to express to make the best out of a bad situation.

You could impose this sentiment onto the "lemon holder":

Nobody wants your lemons, make your own lemonade.


I've heard "That's your row to hoe" though Google treats the idiom as just a difficult task and not one you specially deserve.

"You've made your bed now lie in it" for a situation you brought on yourself

"Eat your own dogfood" like the SO founder once wrote


I was thinking about something more catchy, like waste of space.

Although it doesn't fit perfectly, it can be used in that situation.

Waste of space

The wrecked furniture in here is just a waste of space. (TFD)

So, the response can be:

"That waste of space? Thanks, I don't need this!"


A somewhat similar expression is sometimes used in the context of computing:

Just because it's free doesn't mean you can afford it.

Google search results indicate that several computer forum users have attached this saying as a tagline to their posts, in each case ascribing the expression to "Unknown."

  • (An inverse idea) Just out of college in the early 90s my roommate dropped ~$450 on wingtips, and I confronted him with it: “Wow. Why did you buy such expensive shoes?” His perfectly timed classic reply was, “I don't make enough money to buy cheap shoes.” Very wise words.
    – Larry
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 4:41

I wouldn't take it as a gift.

[upon first seeing your possession]
Well, no one will steal it...

One can compose more elaborate versions specific to the case. These are stronger, taken literally, but they are usually humorous and therefore less brusque: Keep your hair-dryer? No, thanks, I'll just shave my head.


If I was giving back a substandard item to someone, I might in a suitable situation use the saying "a bad penny always turns up".

It conveys something a bit like your expression, but instead of suggesting the original owner should have kept it, it's saying that it's useless to try to get rid of it because it will come back anyway.


Thanks, but I can't keep that poisoned chalice!

Poisoned chalice (British) It is something that harms the person it is given to although it seemed very good when they first got it.

  • "The leadership of the party turned out to be a poisoned chalice."

I suppose that this faulty item does more harm than good. So this expression works here.


"you get what you pay for" is often used to express dissatisfaction for items of inferior quality. it's generally understood to mean that minimal price implies minimal quality. this is especially used for items that are free as well - when nothing is paid, nothing of value is transacted.

  • But this doesn't really relate to the scenario in which dissatisfied customers return purchased merchandise to the manufacturer, which can happen (and, in fact, may be especially likely) it the product is expensive.  (E.g., if I buy something for a low price, and it's no good, I might just throw it away; I would go to the bother of returning it [and asking for a refund] only if it cost a lot.) Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 18:26

Recently in the software world, I have heard this as "eating one's own dogfood" - loosely translated as "if you write it, you should use it." (Sometimes this is shortened to "dogfooding" software or a process.)


I just want to add "Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish". This is more of a phrase you would use when you disposed of a faulty item, not returned it to the owner.
As someone pointed out, in the US you are generally not expected to over-inspect something you were given for free. If you don't want to keep it, you can give it to someone else who might find a use for it (or fix it), or just toss it. The original owner is not going to expect it to be returned, and if you did they would probably just say, "go ahead and toss it" and consider you rude for trying to make them take back something they gave you, as "It was a gift".
This is how Christmas Fruit Cake gets passed around year after year, lol.

  • Also, note that in the US there is a phrase that is not PC anymore, in regards to someone taking back something they gave you as a gift. One was called an "indian-giver". Presumedly because the Native Americans would share things and expect them to be returned after use, as one should, obviously, or else Tupperware would never work.
    – Engineer
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 6:09

A couple of phrases that seem to be remotely similar:

  • “Don’t air your dirty laundry [in public]” or “Keep your dirty laundry to yourself”, which refer to concealing information about which you should be ashamed.  (Sort of the opposite of “Don’t hide your light under a bushel” or “[Put your] best foot forward”, which encourage you to accentuate and publicize your best attributes.)
  • “A face that only a mother could love” is fairly literal and self-explanatory, referring to a person so ugly that he would not be accepted anywhere but within his family.
  • +1 for "only a mother could love". You could use this on things other than faces, by extension.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Feb 19, 2016 at 17:28

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