6

There is an idiom in Persian that literally says: "(to be ignored right after) somebody's donkey has crossed or passed (over) the bridge"

We use it in situations where someone (now feels relieved and) ignores or treats us much differently after:

  • We have helped them to overcome or reach a solution to a problem, but as soon as they feel relieved, they start treating us as if we are now strangers or even annoying to them! (i.e. They totally forget the help they received.)

  • We have provided them with something they needed (like a piece of information or news, a confirmation, an acceptance or agreement, money, etc), but since their need has been met, they don't think twice about ignoring us.

As you know, donkeys are stubborn and when they perceive danger, you can't force them to do anything. So I think the origin of this idiom might have been like this: someone's donkey refrained from crossing the bridge, so they asked a friend to help them get the donkey over the bridge, but after being on the other side, they forgot about their friend or treated them ungratefully.

Example scenarios:

  1. Your friend calls and desperately asks you to lend a large sum of money otherwise they will go to jail. They promise to pay back the sum in two months. You lend the money and they say you are their best friend.
    After three months they still haven't paid you back. You need the money, so you call and ask them when they would repay it. They promise the following month! A month goes by and still no sign. So you call them again on the 6th month. They get angry and scold you about why you have called them over that trivial (!!) sum of money and ask you not to waste their precious time with these annoying phone calls since they would definitely pay you back as soon as possible! At this point you say:

"Okay, you are talking like this because your donkey has already passed over the bridge and you feel safe and relieved now, but are you sure it was your last problem??! I will never help you anymore even if you are about to be executed!"

  1. Joe and Jane have been dating for five years, during all those years Joe's behavior has been exemplary; he really wanted to marry her (so he was just acting according to Jane's wishes and requests). After Jane accepted his proposal of marriage and they got married, Joe started to show his other side and gradually ignored Jane's requests. So Jane told him sarcastically:

"Oh, yeah! now that you've got my "yes", you are ignoring me and the reason is clear: your donkey has just crossed over the bridge!"

Is there any equivalent idiom, expression or proverb in English to criticize such people?

  • 1
    There is an expression "out of the woods", meaning "no longer in danger" - does that fit? – Max Williams Apr 28 '16 at 15:50
  • @Max Williams, Does it convey "forgetting someone who has helped you" too? – Soudabeh Apr 28 '16 at 15:52
  • No it doesn't... – Max Williams Apr 28 '16 at 15:55
  • 4
    In Malayalam and Tamil, "Palam Kadakkuvolam "Narayana Narayana" Palam Kadannal "Korayana Korayana!" Until the bridge is crossed one prays "Narayana, Narayana",once the bridge is crossed one says "Korayana Korayana". (Narayana is a hindu god, Korayana refers to a disrespectful distortion of the god's name.) – NVZ Apr 28 '16 at 17:08
  • 1
    You can get this in just one word - "ingrate", "a person who does not show proper appreciation or thanks for something : an ungrateful person" – user568458 May 9 '16 at 9:38

10 Answers 10

9

One possibly relevant U.S. English expression is "I was just a stepping stone [for him or her]," where "stepping stone" is understood to be a secure place to set your foot down as you make your way along a muddy walkway, say, or across a small stream. The idea is that you help the person along or across as he or she advances, and then the person leaves you behind.

After helping a person like the one you describe, I've sometimes had the impulse to say "See you next time you need me!" But that would be mean-spirited, wouldn't it?

  • Thanks,@Sven Yargs. Thanks. it seems relevant to my first example. And for your question: yes, that would be mean-spirited. :) – Soudabeh Apr 29 '16 at 19:43
  • 2
    Related to stepping on things, there's "Be careful who you step on when climbing the ladder, you might meet them again on your way down" – pepper May 2 '16 at 4:19
5

A friend in need is a friend indeed

This phrase is interesting because there are various interpretations of its meaning.

There is some debate about the meaning of this expression. Firstly, is it 'a friend in need is a friend indeed' or 'a friend in need is a friend in deed'? Secondly, is it 'a friend (when you are) in need' or 'a friend (who is) in need'? If the former, then the phrase means: 'someone who helps you when you are in need is a true friend'. If the latter, it is 'someone who needs your help becomes especially friendly in order to obtain it' (emphasis is mine.)

The Phrase Finder

fly by night

(idiomatic, derogatory) A person or business that appears and disappears rapidly, or gives an impression of transience.

Wiktionary

A slang term used to describe someone or more than one person (can be as large as a business or any other entity) who is extremely unreliable, unless they want something from you. To put these dirtbags in their place, one must confront them directly face to face. This term is different than a flake, as a fly by night DOES contact a person, but only when they want something, whereas a flake or flaky person DOES NOT.

Urban Dictionary

5

I'd call this person a

fair weather friend : One who is friendly, helpful, or available only when it is advantageous or convenient to be so.

I'd say:

Okay, you are talking like this because you are a fair weather friend and you feel safe and relieved now, but are you sure it was your last problem?

  • Thanks, @Peter K. How should I use it in my examples for criticizing those people? :) – Soudabeh Apr 29 '16 at 12:41
  • Isn't that basically an opportunist? – MorganFR Apr 29 '16 at 13:48
  • 1
    @MorganFR : Possibly, but you are an opportunist sounds less interesting for me than you are a fair weather friend. :-) – Peter K. Apr 29 '16 at 13:52
  • 1
    It does sound more interesting, provided your interlocutor knows what it means. – MorganFR Apr 29 '16 at 13:55
3

"Well you got yours so fuck everyone else right?"reddit

3

The following quotes (not all proverbs) are related to thankfullessness:

  • No one sees how much you do for them, they only see what you don't do.

  • Most people return small favors, acknowledge medium ones and repay greater ones with ingratitude. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790).

  • When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep? George Canning (1770-1827), British Prime Minister.

Derived from the last one, you may say:

Okay, I see that your gratitude sleeps when the perils are past. Feeling safe and relieved now, are you sure that it was your last problem ?

In an ironic manner, one may quote Stalin that said that "Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs".

  • It seems that your example has close meaning with my example, @Graffito. Thanks. – Soudabeh Apr 29 '16 at 13:38
3

Though not formal, you could say something to the tune of "You used me and threw me away." for criticism. Another expression related to the situation described is 'in times of need, one has to bow before the buffoon'; implying that a person is only seeking help because he/she is in dire need of it.

  • Interesting and useful expressions, @VSI. Thanks. Actually, that Persian idiom is not formal either. :) – Soudabeh Apr 29 '16 at 19:02
3

"Casting pearls before swine" - To give things of value to those who will not understand or appreciate it.

"No good deed goes unpunished"

"Passed along like yesterday's gossip"

"The sword has forgotten the smith that forged it."

2

The most common idiom I can think of is to say Now that he's got what he wanted out of me... followed by something like ...I shall not be able to rely on him any more.

Variations of this might include Now that I've got him out of trouble...; now that he doesn't need me any more... etc.

But sadly I can't think of any English saying which is equivalent to the donkey passing over the bridge.

2

I had to look up these English proverbs up as they've fallen out of fashion, but they speak about ingratitude.

  • When I had thatched his house, he would have hurled me from the roof.
  • Save a thief from the gallows and he’ll be the first to cut your throat.
  • it is an ill guest that never drinks to his host

A compleat Collection of English Proverbs (1737) By John Ray

However, in the situations described by the OP, I am struck more by the deceptive nature of the people than their ingratitude. I would suggest the following idioms

  1. use someone for your own ends (=to get what you want)

    Liz has always used people for her own ends.

In the situations described by the OP one might tell the assisted friend, or newly wedded husband

You just used me for your own ends, didn't you?

  1. take someone for a ride

    informal Deceive or cheat someone
    it’s not pleasant to find out you’ve been taken for a ride by someone you trusted

1

Although the owner of the donkey has the good sense to wait until the requested help has been completed, your expression is otherwise somewhat similar to the fable (as it’s described in ‘Wikipedia’) about “The Scorpion and the Frog”, where it’s shown that a/the scorpion will inevitably and inescapably “reveal or show its true nature, its true colors”.
(from ‘The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer,’ via ‘The Free Dictionary by Farlex’)

“By your unkind words/actions [I guess] you’re just revealing your true colors [to me]. I’ll know better next time.”

  • 2
    Interestingly there is a proverb in Persian that says "scorpoins don't sting out of hostility, they do it because it's part of their nature", it implies that " this person has annoyed / is annoying you unintentionally, because they are like this by nature, and you cannot change them". Thanks, @Papa Poule. :) – – Soudabeh Apr 29 '16 at 19:46
  • 1
    @Soudabeh That’s what I think it means in English, too! But a dangerous underlying flaw is still a dangerous flaw that can and should be subject to criticism, even if it’s part of the perpetrator’s nature and he/she can’t help but be that way. Similar to the flaw of the donkey’s owner (ungratefulness?), the Scorpion’s flaw (being a scorpion?) manifested itself in the fable by the scorpion acting badly against someone who was there to help him. – Papa Poule Apr 29 '16 at 23:05
  • You are right, @Papa poule :) – Soudabeh Apr 30 '16 at 3:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.