In Hindi language, there is a prevalent saying:

sau chuhe maar billi haj ko chali

which, if directly translated into English, becomes

After killing/eating 100 mice, the cat goes on a pilgrimage

I think the translation is enough to convey the essence of the proverb. However, it doesn't quite pack the punch as its Hindi counterpart.

So what I am looking for is a similar proverb in English.


So, apparently, the translation conveys the essence to me due to my hindsight knowledge. My apologies.

Though I am not aware of the etymology – I picked the proverb from day-to-day usage – I can explain its essence. Basically, it could be used to describe a situation in which an entity, after intentionally inflicting a heavy damage, performs some 'good' deed, often as a cover-up.

I will try to put some context to the usage through examples.

  • A conglomerate, after ravaging a diverse ecosystem and profiting out of it, goes on to donate some negligible amount of money as part of Corporate Social Responsibility.

  • It could also be applied to the case of that guy, Jimmy Swaggart, repenting in public.

I hope this clears the air.

  • Welcome to English Language and Usage. Can you elaborate on the background of the proverb, its etymology and in what context the proverb has been used? It will help us give you a better answer. The following is the strict rule of this community. Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered. For help writing a good word or phrase request, see: About single word requests. Please edit your question accordingly.
    – user140086
    Mar 15, 2016 at 6:27
  • 1
    @AMN your translation makes no sense whatsoever. It's very confusing. The OP's translation in the body gives a better idea.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 21, 2018 at 7:48

6 Answers 6


John Ray, A Collection of English Proverbs (1678) offers an English saying that expresses the gist of the Hindi proverb you relate:

Steal the goose, and give the giblets in alms.

The underlying notion here is that a thief may take a thing of relatively great value for himself and then donate a pittance from his ill-gotten gains to the poor as proof of his charity or magnanimity. More broadly, the proverb criticizes individuals who take what isn't rightfully theirs, give a mite of it back, and then claim to be people of great philanthropy or piety.

Although I have never heard a person in real life repeat this proverb, it has appeared in many collections of English proverbs over the centuries, including The Macmillan Book of Proverbs, Maxims, and Famous Phrases (1948). Evidently, a saying from Spain uses a pig instead of a goose to make the same point. Henry Spence-Jones, The Pulpit Commentary, volume 4 (a nineteenth-century text), after repeating the goose-and-giblets proverb, mentions this Spanish alternative:

"Huerto el puerco, y darlos pies por Dios," "Steal the pig, and give away the pettitoes [trotters] for God's sake."

  • This answer provides the closest alternative in my opinion. How practicable its usage is in day to day life is debatable though. I will accept this as the answer anyway.
    – jysh
    Aug 31, 2018 at 4:46

One venerable idiom for agents of such hypocrisy is 'whited sepulchres' (a variant spelling is 'sepulchers'), also less commonly known as 'dyed pharisees':

whit·ed sepulcher (wī′tĭd, hwī′-) n.
An evil person who pretends to be holy or good; a hypocrite.

[From the simile applied by Jesus to hypocrites as exemplified by some scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:27).]

[American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. S.v. "whited sepulcher." Retrieved March 15 2016 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/whited+sepulcher ]

For your examples,

  1. The criminal conglomerate's attempt to 'whitewash' (another idiom) its crimes with monetary donations marks it as a 'whited sepulcher'.
  2. Jimmy Swaggart might be accurately described as a 'whited sepulcher'.

In Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898), the 'whited sepulchre' is listed as number 10 of the 'Pharisees', defined as

“separatists” (Heb. parash, to separate), men who looked upon themselves as holier than other men, and therefore refused to hold social intercourse with them. The Talmud mentions the following classes:—

(1) The “Dashers,” or “Bandy-legged” (Nikfi), who scarcely lifted their feet from the ground in walking, but “dashed them against the stones,” that people might think them absorbed in holy thought (Matt. xxi. 44).
(2) The “Mortars,” who wore a “mortier,” or cap, which would not allow them to see the passers-by, that their meditations might not be disturbed. “Having eyes, they saw not” (Mark viii. 18).
(3) The “Bleeders,” who inserted thorns in the borders of their gaberdines to prick their legs in walking.
(4) The “Cryers,” or “Inquirers,” who went about crying out, “Let me know my duty, and I will do it” (Matt. xix. 16–22).
(5) The “Almsgivers,” who had a trumpet sounded before them to summon the poor together (Matt. vi. 2).
(6) The “Stumblers,” or “Bloody-browed” (Kizai), who shut their eyes when they went abroad that they might see no women, being “blind leaders of the blind” (Matt. xv. 14). Our Lord calls them “blind Pharisees,” “fools and blind.”
(7) The “Immovables,” who stood like statues for hours together, “praying in the market places” (Matt. vi. 5).
(8) The “Pestle Pharisees” (Medinkia), who kept themselves bent double like the handle of a pestle.
(9) The “Strong-shouldered” (Shikmi), who walked with their back bent as if carrying on their shoulders the whole burden of the law.
(10) The “Dyed Pharisees,” called by our Lord “Whited Sepulchres,” whose externals of devotion cloaked hypocrisy and moral uncleanness.

(Talmud of Jerusalem, Berakoth, ix; Sota, v. 7: Talmud of Babylon, Sota, 22 b.)

  • This is an excellent reply. However, whited sepulcher refers to the person doing the deed. What I wanted more was the satirical description of the event, analogous to Pot is calling kettle black.
    – jysh
    Aug 31, 2018 at 4:48

Crocodile tears

(for example, as described in Wikipedia)

refers to a hypocritical outpouring of emotion, hearkening back to to an ancient belief that crocodiles weep for their victims as they eat them.

This fits in with what you want; at the end of Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter", the Walrus indulges in some desultory crocodile tears for the Oysters:

'It seems a shame,' the Walrus said, / To play them such a trick,

After we've brought them out so far, / And made them trot so quick!'

The Carpenter said nothing but / 'The butter's spread too thick!'


'I weep for you,' the Walrus said: / 'I deeply sympathize.'

With sobs and tears he sorted out / Those of the largest size,

Holding his pocket-handkerchief / Before his streaming eyes.


'O Oysters,' said the Carpenter, / 'You've had a pleasant run!'

'Shall we be trotting home again?' / But answer came there none —

And this was scarcely odd, because They'd eaten every one.


You could call it a token gesture


A token gesture often refers to an offer to do something, which the person making the gesture might expect to not be taken up, but it can also refer to something that is done but doesn't really make any difference and certainly doesn't correct the previous wrongdoing.

This is an idiom, not a proverb, but it seems like a good fit. It seems to me that compared to some languages, English is rich in idioms and not so rich in proverbs.


A related idiom in English (not a proverb) is a wolf in sheep's clothing, which is something bad/violent/dangerous disguised as something meek and gentle.


There is an expression that has the same undertones, although I admit it probably isn't the exact same idea, and that is a wolf in sheep's clothing. (another link).

A sheep is generally a harmless creature, if not helpful in providing wool, lanolin, and eventually mutton. On the other hand, a wolf is harmful- it wants to eat you. If a wolf wishes to approach you and get you to trust it, it will disguise itself as a sheep, so you don't realize the danger until the last minute.

It does reverse the cause-effect order of your cat on a pilgrimage, but it is the closest similar idea I am aware of.

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