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Suppose you have a new boss and your former boss was a vicious and dictator one. Now you are visiting the new boss for the first time. He seems to be a nice person to you, but one of your colleagues who has worked with him before, after hearing your opinion about the new boss, would reply mockingly or sarcastically:

"Don't be fooled by his appearance! he is not better than the former boss, actually they are both as bad as each other!".

We Iranians have a proverb that implies "none of these two people is better than the other, both of them are bad/ evil/ vicious". it literally says:

"The yellow dog is the jackal's brother."

Its etymology is like this:

Once there was a mischievous jackal living in a village, he annoyed people so much that they explelled him from there. But he entered again, in disguise and as a yellow dog. Since people had a good opinion about dogs accepted him and called him "the Jackal's brother" (because he looked like the jackal). This time the jackal continued his vicious actions in secret so the people couldn't find out the truth; but in a rainy day, the yellow color was washed off the jackal's body and the people found out the truth, so they said "Oh, look! the yellow dog or 'the jackal's brother' is the jackal himself!".

Is there any idiom, expression or proverb than can be used for comparing two bad, vicious or evil people that would imply "but this one is not less vicious than the other, both of them are bad"?

I have found "They are two of a kind". Can I use it as an equivalent for that Persian proverb (with a negative connotation)?

PS:

1- In this proverb, "the yellow dog" is the symbol for a bad person, and "the jackal" is the symbol for a worse one. Althogh one of them seems better than the other, in practice both of them are horrible and act vicious. So to the people, there is no difference between them in practice.

2- We use this proverb when comparing two vicous or bad politicians too. For example; if the new president fails to fulfill what he had promised in his campaigns about improving the situation of human rights and freedom of speech, and just acts like the former tyrant president, then unhappy people would say:

" It is clear that this one isn't different with that former president. Actually, they are as bad as each other, as the proverb goes "the yellow dog is the jackal's brother", so we shouldn't be optimistic about any improvements in the human rights in the country in this person's presidency either."

3- Here are two other examples, that @Josh61 has found in some websites, and a literal translation of that proverb is used in those papers:

12 Answers 12

36

I would say:

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

This means that although the parties in charge have changed, the living and working conditions have not.

It apparently comes from they lyrics of The Who's song Won't Get Fooled Again by Pete Townshend.

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    Great for the specific situation in the question, may not be as broadly applicable as the Iranian phrase. Still, great phrasing (and a great song), and it definitely does fit the specific example in the question, so +1. – KRyan Apr 20 '16 at 19:10
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    Modern usage isn't hyper-specific to employers, but the phrase is generally used about people in relative positions of power, most commonly elected officials. – S. G. Apr 20 '16 at 20:04
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    I always assumed that was a common phrase that The Who put in their song. Did they really coin it? – T.E.D. Apr 21 '16 at 14:53
  • @T.E.D. Well, the song came out in 1971, and the NGram results for and "same as the old boss" definitely spike significantly after that period. – KChaloux Apr 21 '16 at 15:10
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    The word "boss" is routinely substituted with whatever else is appropriate. – chrylis -on strike- Apr 22 '16 at 6:30
22
  1. There's small choice in rotten apples.

  2. A choice between the Devil and the deep blue sea.

  3. It's six of one and half a dozen of the other. (One person is as bad as the other).

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    The last is not negative, which should be pointed out. It literally just means two names for the same thing. The first two, though, are some of the better options here. – KRyan Apr 20 '16 at 19:09
11

This is a similar situation that recently happened at my work place, except that I found out firsthand how much worse my new boss is compared to my old boss. Referring to the impact this new boss has on our work environment, I warned a colleague who like me, initially had positive expectations of the new boss, by telling him, "We're out of the frying pan now!"

The idiom "out of the frying pan and into the fire" described for me the exact situation in which I had found myself: I thought that my troubles at work would depart with the old boss, and that things would greatly improve, but instead with the new boss only came new treacheries.

While "wolf in sheep's clothing" would apply to the face of innocence this new boss uses as a mask to cover inner-evil, it doesn't fully describe how much worse the new boss is in comparison to the just-as-awful-in-a-different-way old boss. "Lesser of two evils" also has similar meaning - that with one or the other the fact of accepting evil either way still remains.

Your use of "each of them is worse than the other" is a perfect description! It is helpful to have a phrase that describes these boss-entities separate from my own frying-pan experience, but I don't know/can't find an idiom that I feel really fits yours.

The difficulty is in matching the meaning and the use of predatory animals to describe the characters of people in relation to each other and to the proverbial village upon which they prey. It is the implied inherent tendency to predation in "the yellow dog is the jackal's brother" that is hard to match. To describe both bosses as one predacious entity you could say "you can't take the jungle out of the tiger".

(For lack of a traditional idiom or proverb, or even just an English colloquialism that can represent the archetype, I just refer to my new boss as "President Coin" after a character in the young adult dystopian fantasy series "The Hunger Games".)

  • Huh, I wonder if President Coin will eventually see usage in this manner. Those books are certainly popular enough now, and the usage is quite apt. We’ll see how they fare with the test of time. Anyway, +1 for out of the frying pan and into the fire. – KRyan Apr 20 '16 at 19:12
8

Consider,

A new broom always sweeps clean [at the beginning]. Wait until a few bristles have worn (=until the novelty/shine has worn off) and you'll see it doesn't sweep any cleaner than the old one!

Damned with one, damned with the other.

two sides of the same coin

If two things are two sides of the same coin, they are very closely related although they seem different (emphasis is mine.)

Cambridge Idioms Dictionary

Editorial: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are two sides of the same coin

Ted Cruz is not an acceptable alternative to Donald Trump. They are both dangerous demagogues.

Cap Times

cut from the same cloth; made from/cast in the same mold

Meaning: Be very similar, act in a very similar way

If you say two or more people are cut from the same cloth, you mean they are very alike or act in a very similar way.

OELS

speak the same language

To share similar beliefs and opinions.

Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms

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    'two sides of the same coin' means that the two things are not the same, but that they are complementary or come in the same circumstances or are good and bad together. – Mitch Apr 20 '16 at 18:45
  • @Mitch Do you have a source for that definition? My interpretation of two sides of the same coin often varies based on context. – Dan Apr 20 '16 at 19:58
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    @Dan Proverbs and sayings don't have definitions. But I do think 'two sides of the same coin' is not appropriate for the situation described by the OP. The coin metaphor implies that two things are integrally related or complementary despite their opposite appearance. A jackal and a dog are not complementary. 'Cut from the same cloth' is more appropriate' – Mitch Apr 20 '16 at 22:21
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    None of these have the negative connotations that the OP is looking for, however. – sversch Apr 21 '16 at 6:07
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    A better example would be "Trump and Sanders are two sides of the same coin", in that both are populist outsiders. – Placidia Apr 21 '16 at 17:06
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Sounds like they were both tarred with the same brush.

tarred with the same brush
Having the same faults or bad qualities, as in He may be lazy, but if you ask me his friends are all tarred with the same brush. This term is thought to come from sheep farming, where the animals' sores were treated by brushing tar over them, and all the sheep in a flock were treated in the same way. The term was transferred to likeness in human beings in the early 1800s.

tarred with the same brush. (n.d.) McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. (2002). Retrieved April 20 2016 from http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/tarred+with+the+same+brush

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    This could be a really apt idiom, but there seems to be disagreement as to whether it really means having, regarded as having or even unjustly characterized as having the same faults. See collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/… and en.wiktionary.org/wiki/tar_with_the_same_brush. The wiktionary definition was what I thought it meant, but I don't know for sure. – LarsH Apr 21 '16 at 5:27
  • Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms agrees with wiktionary, but William Cobbett’s Rural Rides (1823) seems to use it in the sense that your quoted definition does. – LarsH Apr 21 '16 at 5:36
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    You are misusing this phrase. It means when one person has done something and the people around him unfairly get the same reputation. Whereas the jackal one implies that both are bad but the new one has the appearance of something different. – JamesRyan Apr 21 '16 at 9:56
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    This is something in modern usage you'd most often say if people were using the "yellow dog / jackal's brother" expression about someone unfairly ("I don't trust the new boss, the yellow dog is the jackal's brother"/"No, the new boss is fine, it's just that management have all been tarred with the same brush"). It's almost the opposite expression. – user568458 Apr 21 '16 at 16:49
  • I was aware that there are two differing uses of this phrase. Compare "to tar with the same brush", which is the way it is most often used when the comparison is unjustified (as in guilt by association), with "tarred with the same brush". I can assure you that in my family, the latter is a common expression and simply means they are guilty of the same shorthcomings. I always thought it was a reference to a pair of criminals being tarred and feathered together. – Phil Sweet Apr 22 '16 at 2:58
3

In most contexts, especially in those where two or more politicians are being compared, the expression “They’re all alike” would probably imply more negativity than your suggestion of “They’re two of a kind”:

“Politicians. They’re all alike.”

(example from ‘KABA 1330’ by Robert N. Story, via ‘Google Books’)

Another option could be “Same old, same old,” which this good answer to a closed question defines as “The same old thing” and goes further to add that its origins might be from the Philippine island of Mindanao where “samo, samo” was used to declare, albeit in a positive sense, that two parties “were all one.”
It is used, however, in a negative sense when discussing politics and politicians, as in the title of this blogspot entry.

3

Another idiom that might work is the devil you know.

better the devil you know than the devil you don't and variants: it is wiser to deal with someone or something which is familiar, though undesirable, than to risk a change that might lead to an even worse situation. Now frequently shortened to better the devil you know.--OED Online

The even shorter phrase the devil you know is also a widely understood reference to this concept.

Thus, in your example it could be used when waiting for the new boss to arrive, with the sense that things are unlikely to get better:

Underling: I'm so glad the Overlord is finally gone! Hope the new guy's better.

Drudge (ominously): But you know what they say about the devil you know...

or after you've figured out that the new boss is bad, with a sense that the new guy seems worse because you haven't gotten used to him yet:

Minion: I miss the old despot.

Flunkey: Yeah, better the devil you know than the one you don't.

2

I can think of three idiomatic phrases that might be used in U.S. English to convey the notion that two people are extremely similar. These expressions are not exclusively used in the sense of "similarly bad," however, so you would have to make that aspect of the comparison clear by other means. One expression is "as alike as two peas in a pod." This phrase is often used two describe two people or two things that are very similar in appearance—which is obviously not what you want here—but it can also be used about personality, character, attitude, or other invisible qualities. For example, from Alzina Dale, "Introduction" to G.K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens (1906):

Chesterton's Charles Dickens is a classic. It is not only one of his "half-dozen minor masterpieces," but it is also one of the best self-portraits he ever drew, for, if Dickens and Chesterton are not as alike as two peas in a pod, they are certainly two of a kind.

Another is "like Tweedledee and Tweedledum," referring to the rather obtuse identical twins in Alice in Wonderland. For example, from Martin van Crewald, The Land of Blood and Honey: The Rise of Modern Israel (2010):

Netanyahu's own successor was Ehud Barak. ... At one stage in his career he commanded a unit in which Netanyahu had served as an officer. During the election campaign he used this fact to claim, repeatedly, that "Netanyahu [was] unsuitable" for the prime minister's slot. In reality they were like Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Barak ran on a platform of “Peace and security”; equally original, Netanyahu's slogan was “Security and peace.” In any event, Tweedledee won.

The third expression is "separated at birth"—originally applied to identical twins raised in different households, but subsequently used to describe unrelated people who look similar and eventually (by extension) to unrelated people who have similar viewpoints or patterns of behavior. For example, from William Hildebolt, The Professional Entrepreneur: When Cowboys Grow Up (2010):

There must be something magic about Lake Erie water that creates positive attitudes and can-do spirits. Both Jim Paluch and Phil Fogarty were born and raised in Northern Ohio close to Lake Erie. The two are close friends and have such similar characteristics that one thinks that they were twins separated at birth.

To make any of these expressions work in the situation you describe, you'd first have to acknowledge that at least superficially the two bosses are not "as alike as two peas in a pod" or "like Tweedledee and Tweedledum" or "separated at birth"; but having conceded that, you can apply the idiomatic expressions to their similar characters:

Beneath the surface, they're as alike as two peas in a pod.

As bosses, they're like Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

In terms of dictatorial personality, they could be twins separated at birth.

  • Tweedledee and Tweedledum are the only examples here that are even somewhat negative, but the negativity isn’t the same (or as strong) as in the example. Seems worth highlighting in the answer. – KRyan Apr 20 '16 at 19:08
  • @KRyan While I would agree that "two peas in a pod" is generally referring to a very close, positive relationship, "separated at birth" definitely has negative connotations both literally and figuratively. Of the three, I would choose "like Tweedledee and Tweedledum", simply because the latter ends with "dum" which is a homophone of "dumb". – Dan Apr 20 '16 at 19:54
  • @Dan Separated at birth may have negative connotations for whomever did the separating, but not for those who were separated. But even for the separator, a negative connotation is a stretch. – KRyan Apr 20 '16 at 19:55
  • @KRyan You're right. I suppose, in my mind, the negativity is more directly related to the implication that the new boss is twins with the old boss, more so than the fact that they were separated at birth (which serves as an inessential qualifier in this interpretation). – Dan Apr 20 '16 at 20:02
  • @Dan I was referring to the phrase itself, not the phrase combined with this particular situation. Being twin to a bad person may have a negative connotation for you, but the phrase separated at birth only states that the two are similar: that might be a good thing! – KRyan Apr 20 '16 at 20:03
2

You said it already: they are both as bad as each other.

2

"Be careful what you wish for; you just may get it some day."

This relates to wishing that the old boss would leave, never realizing that someone just as bad(or worse) may take his place.

"Same shit, different day."

This could refer specifically to bosses, or to a resignation to the feeling that things will never get better, even though there's a new face in the CEO's office

1

The simplest and most generalizable phrase would be: "They're two of a kind." Meaning they are a matched pair, just the same.

1

This isn't a proverb -- actually a quote from John Milton's Lycidas -- but it fits the context of a reform that changes nothing: "New presbyter is but old priest." Like the OP, I often want to reach for a pithy way to express the fact that the new broom is not sweeping clean, but simply pushing the same dirt under the same carpets. Milton is all that comes to mind. Perhaps it reflects the fundamental optimism of the English speaking world that we don't have a good proverb for "the same old same old."

I don't recommend the quote, since it assumes that the listener has heard of John Milton and is passingly familiar with 17th century British ecclesiastical politics. But if you run in those circles, Milton's your ticket and everyone will be deeply impressed.

protected by tchrist Apr 21 '16 at 23:30

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