I am wondering if there is a word or phrase encompassing the concept for something that is not a problem, until it becomes a problem.


  • Hiring a spouse to work for your company is not a problem, until someone doesn't like them (making it a problem).
  • Politicians taking money from individuals is not a problem, until they take money from the "wrong" people (making it a problem).
  • Copying someone's work is not a problem in and of itself, until the person is affected.

The most relevant concepts that I can think of :

  • Conflicts of interest
  • Plagiarism
  • Please could you give an example of the way in which the word you are seeking might be used?
    – WS2
    Sep 7, 2016 at 19:06
  • 3
    Risks, did you mean?
    – NVZ
    Sep 7, 2016 at 19:24
  • 1
    It's asking for trouble.
    – Drew
    Sep 7, 2016 at 21:30
  • @Drew I think "asking for trouble" is what I was going for, can you post as an answer? Sep 8, 2016 at 14:14
  • I would, but someone will complain that I don't have a reference for it. I'm not sure where to find a reference for a phrase.
    – Drew
    Sep 8, 2016 at 17:30

3 Answers 3


If you're talking to the plagiarizer, or the nepotist, for example, here are some ways you can explain potential future difficulties:

  • You are asking for trouble. TFD (crediting Drew in the comment)
  • This could easily blow up in your face.
  • Imagine what this would look like in a headline.

a "potential" or "latent" problem**

  • potential - "capable of being but not yet in existence" - TFD

  • latent - "present or potential but not evident or active" - TFD

Examples in the literature:

  • 1. - "Is the fact that the research is done at two different schools a potential problem with the study?"

  • 2. - "Potential problems related to weightlessness and artificial gravity..."

  • 3. - "Latent problems weren't directly visible to a technician but might occur in the future."

  • 4. - "An example of a potential problem for a couple expecting a baby who already have a two-year old child might be jealousy on the part of the toddler after the baby is born."


A hostage to fortune, perhaps?

To give hostage to fortune - To take an action or make a statement that is risky because it could cause you trouble later.


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