In the Indian language of Malayalam, there's a funny saying which literally translates to

Picking a fight with your mother at home because you lost a fight at the marketplace.

It means taking out one's frustration over one incident on someone else.

I found that Displaced Aggression and Redirected Aggression have a serious note to them.

Is there some equivalent phrase in English that is on a lighter note?

  • Does "your mother' suggest that you would give vent to your frustrations with someone who would just listen to you? – user66974 Jan 30 '16 at 10:47
  • @Josh61 Uhm.. sort of, yeah. – NVZ Jan 30 '16 at 10:49
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    "Taking it out on [person, place or thing]" is the most appropriate thing i can think of, which you seem to already know. This is said often in movies and TV shows, "You're just upset that you got fired/lost a fight/got dumped and you're taking it out on me/her/everyone!" I can't think of a funny way that an English speaker would say this. It's not considered a funny thing to do, as far as I know. – Todd Wilcox Jan 30 '16 at 16:28
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    Kiss up kick down – AMN Nov 5 '18 at 7:46

It's not an exact match, but you could consider using "Go home and kick the cat (dog)" which is

a metaphor used to describe how a relatively high-ranking person in an organization or family displaces his or her frustrations by abusing a lower-ranking person, who may in turn take it out on his or her own subordinate.

The term has been used at least since the 19th century. According to author John Bradshaw, humans were far more cruel to cats at that time, to the extent that kicking one was not perceived to be unusual and hence entered the language as a popular idiom.

The idiom could be used when you vent your anger on or lash out at innocent people or pets who are weaker or lower-ranking than you.



Bark up the wrong tree: may convey a similar meaning, in the sense that you are giving vent to your frustrations with the person who is not responsible for them:

  • Fig. to make the wrong choice; to ask the wrong person; to follow the wrong course. (Alludes to a dog in pursuit of an animal, where the animal is in one tree and the dog is barking at another tree.).

    • The hitters blamed the team's bad record on the pitchers, but they were barking up the wrong tree.
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    This idiom is used for mistakes, for blunders, for misplaced judgments, not because you want to vent your frustration on an easy target. See Rathony's answer, he's on the right track. – Mari-Lou A Jan 30 '16 at 12:30
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    @Mari-LouA - I think that the "mother" in question might say.."Dear, you are just barking up the wrong tree" even though they both know it is not a 'blunder'. – user66974 Jan 30 '16 at 12:32
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    The OP is "picking a fight" (Note scare quotes) See: phrases.org.uk/meanings/56150.html The mother would probably clip him round the ears, and tell him to go an punch a pillow if he wants to release pent up anger. See also: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barking_up_the_wrong_tree – Mari-Lou A Jan 30 '16 at 12:34
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    "Picking a fight" in a figurative sense. – user66974 Jan 30 '16 at 12:36

You could consider getting one's knickers in a twist

If you get your knickers in a twist, you are angry, nervous or anxious faced with a difficult situation



Raju's team lost the hockey match. He couldn't show it in the ground so he got his knickers in a twist when he got home

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    That's very British. Americans would really have a good belly laugh upon hearing that phrase. My kids had an English nanny. She said that a lot. It sounded, well, very British. – Steven Littman Jan 30 '16 at 14:54
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    American version: get one's panties in a wad/knot. – Caleb Jan 30 '16 at 16:02
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    But does this imply some sort of redirected anger? No, I believe. So this isn't suitable, sorry. – NVZ Feb 4 '16 at 16:55
  • That's the problem with translating non English Proverbs to English... You simply can't get an exact match every time. Only an approximate equivalent. I have suggested an idiom that means to get angry. I have used this in my example sentence as a form redirection, so to speak.... – BiscuitBoy Feb 4 '16 at 17:06
  • @BiscuitBoy You say that you have used your example sentence to show the phrase being used for redirected anger, but you haven't, you've used it to describe 'deferred' anger, and you just can't defer getting your knickers in a twist. Getting your knickers in a twist is all about frustrated anger, in the instant. It expresses confusion and annoyance, which are reactions, you can't defer them, only the expression of them. NVZ is correct, it isn't suitable here. – Spagirl May 30 '16 at 11:08

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