Consider another nice Polish saying "Zamienił stryjek siekierkę na kijek" that literally means "Uncle replaced hatchet with stick" but I managed to form it into a little rhyme just like in Polish (I know it doesn't rhyme very well or at all). It goes: "Replaced an uncle hatchet with cudgel" (not the bludgeon or baton). I'm looking for similar word/idiom.

This ironic and playful saying is mostly used to describe a situation in which one has made a very adverse exchange/replacement. It's been made completely unforced and as comments below say it's a regrettable choice because one thought it'd be good but it turned out to be opposite.


  • I bought that Volkswagen but sometimes I still miss my BMW. Heh, _________ [replaced a hatchet with cudgel].

Will you help me improve my little rhyme? :-)

  • 2
    Is the meaning of this saying something like, "He was forced to downgrade." or "What he thought was going to be better turned out to be not as good." Or what?
    – Jim
    Mar 16, 2016 at 1:51

4 Answers 4


At present I cant think of a direct corollary, for a foolhardy exchange unlike the "bad swap" of cow for beans made by "Jack and the Beanstalk" which turned out good?

If my action was foolish, one may say "xxx in haste, repent at leisure " where xxx could be Act, Buy (/Purchase) or most commonly Marry.

If I thought my business transaction was poor/ or was duped. I might say "I bought a pig in a poke" or was "Sold a pup"

So in summary I guess the best I can suggest is either your Uncle "made a bad swap" or bought/was sold either a "Pig in a poke" or "a pup".


You could say he "got the short end of the stick". It even involves a stick!

You'll find references and explanations of the phrase all over the place, for example, at phrases.org.uk or Urban Dictionary.

  • Do you have a source, @Spencer?
    – AAM111
    Mar 17, 2016 at 1:23
  • It's a common enough expeession, but I can google like a headless chicken with the best of them: phrases.org.uk/meanings/end-of-the-stick.html
    – Spencer
    Mar 17, 2016 at 1:31
  • 1
    Can you edit it into the question? Here, we prefer sourced answers, and it is more likely to be upvoted.
    – AAM111
    Mar 17, 2016 at 1:32
  • I don't think the meaning is the same at all. This means there was bad luck (the luck of the draw was against you) or a raw deal. Mar 17, 2016 at 2:56
  • 1
    You're never going to find a perfect answer. Clearly someone who trades an axe for a stick doesn't know what he/she is in for. Winding up with a bad deal (even due to ignorance or laziness) can be chalked up to bad luck (or we wouldn't have the saying "I'd rather be lucky than good"). Or are talking about someone who "cuts off their nose to spite their face"?
    – Spencer
    Mar 17, 2016 at 3:04

The uncle in question traded down (a hatchet with a stick).

I bought that Volkswagen but sometimes I still miss my BMW. Heh, traded down.


trade down

To trade something for something else of lower value or price: My SUV used a lot of gas, so I traded it down for a smaller, more economical car.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


English equivalent of Polish saying “Uncle replaced hatchet with stick”

A more traditional one taken from the Bible is "a mess of pottage". Here:

A mess of pottage is something immediately attractive but of little value taken foolishly and carelessly in exchange for something more distant and perhaps less tangible but immensely more valuable. The phrase alludes to Esau's sale of his birthright for a meal ("mess") of lentil stew ("pottage") in Genesis 25:29-34 and connotes shortsightedness and misplaced priorities.

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