I often wonder if there is any similar English idiom to Polish saying "Głupich nie sieją, sami się rodzą" literally meaning "Dumb people are not sown, they're born."

Short explanation:

This saying is similar in meaning to There are always dumb people and you can't do anything about it, you must deal with that.

Long explanation:

When I try to explain the meaning behind this saying I always explain it like this: imagine we have cereal. Cereal can be sown randomly and naturally by wind or wild animals that are transporting the seeds in their fur. That just happens. But there is a need for cereal to feed all the people so they're planting them on purpose. If we compare that to a baby, we can say that no one is ever planning to give birth to an idiot because no one wants idiots in society and there is no need for them. Dumb people are not 'sown'. That just happens and they're born (or to be more exact they're becoming dumb along the way).

More details:
This saying is commonly used to describe a person that made something obviously stupid or wrong only because he or she believes it is right despite the fact that majority of society finds it simply stupid. Be sure that it is not used to describe a person that have done something wrong because of unawarness. It must be done on purpose and because of ignorance. It can be done because of stereotype but doesn't have to. I guess this saying can be used to describe at least teenager. Below that age you'd rather use it to describe parents than a child.

- Jack did you hear what Mike did? He thought the snow is thick enough and he jumped out of balcony and he broke his leg.
- Are you serious? Dumb people are not sown, they're born.

  • 3
    Calvin & Hobbes seems to have formed a slightly sexist idiom that describes a similar thing: "Idiocy is the essence of the male mind." Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 14:03
  • @JohnClifford unfortunately this old saying relates to both men and women
    – Colonder
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 14:15
  • 9
    I'm not sure how wide-spread it is at this point so not giving as an answer, but a comedy routine by Ron White a few years ago introduced the phrase "You can't fix stupid" to at least at sub-set of AmEng. The full thought is something like "Fat people can get liposuction, ugly people can get a facelift. You can't fix stupid." A video of the routine is on YouTube.
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 14:32
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    @cobaltduck I think that's as close as it gets. Why not post an answer?
    – user140086
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 14:39
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    Again this seems to contradict the Polish saying, but if you don’t mind admitting that all of us are born ignorant (and not just the “hard worker” being targeted by the saying), there’s “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 20:14

6 Answers 6


There's no cure for stupidity.

Comes close to the connotation of the inevitability of nature the Polish one has.

  • inevitability of nature the Polish one has?
    – Colonder
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 16:02
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    "There's no cure for stupidity" or more colloquially "you can't fix stupid" would refer to the inevitability that the person in question was born stupid, but not the inevitability that in general some people are stupid at birth. This phrase just means that this particular person was born stupid, and there's no way to fix that.
    – daboross
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 21:09

The saying "there is one born every minute" is close to yours:

  • There are many fools and dupes in the world.


  • The earliest form of the phrase that I can find in print comes from The European magazine: and London review, published by the Philological Society of Great Britain, 1806:

  • It was the observation of one of the tribe of Levi, [that is, a Jew] to whom some person had expressed his astonishment at his being able to sell his damaged and worthless commodities, "That there vash von fool born every minute".

  • The "sucker born every minute" is widely said to have been conjured up by P. T. Barnum. Like many other sayings attributed to Barnum, they are just that - there's no evidence that he coined this phrase.

  • Whilst probably not having been coined by Barnum "a sucker born every minute" is certainly an American phrase. The first record that I can find of it in print is in The New York Times, December, 1883:

  • 'There's a sucker born every minute,' as the gamblers day.

(The Phrase Finder)

  • 2
    According to link you provided I can say that this is completely different, because it describes naive person and not ignorant or malicious
    – Colonder
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 19:06

There is an English idiom that matches your "long explanation" almost exactly: "Dumb people are born, not made".

It is also used when talking about someone with an exceptional ability to do something (for example "Olympic athletes are born, not made") as well as to an exceptional lack of ability.


This would usually be found in contexts where the person in question actively defeated a mechanism to stop them from doing something stupid, but nicely conveys the inevitability in your original phrase, if not the fact that dumb people are created naturally.

You can make it idiot-proof, but someone will always build a better idiot.

"Idiot-proof" means that it cannot be defeated by idiots, in the same way that bulletproof armour cannot be defeated by bullets and childproof packaging cannot be defeated by children. "Build a better idiot" is a reference to the Emerson quotation "Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door."


If I were trying to capture the pungency of the original expression, I would say something like this:

Stupidity grows wild; nobody has to cultivate it.

But that isn't an idiomatic phrase in English. The main idiomatic elements are "grows wild" (which means something like "arises without the help or intervention of human effort") and "cultivate" (which has both an agricultural meaning related to planting and maintenance, and a cultural or societal meaning related to social refinement).

An American saying that expresses a rather different view of stupidity had become popular in recent years:

Everyone is born ignorant, but you have to work hard to stay that way.

The underlying idea here is that becoming more sensible as we mature is every bit as natural as starting out knowing nothing. The possible source of this saying is discussed at Quotation ascribed to Benjamin Franklin, "We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid."


Experience keeps a dear school, yet fools will learn in no other.


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