20

Is there an idiom for "People quickly get used to good things"?

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    jaded - Bored or lacking enthusiasm, typically after having had too much of something. That "something" is invariably good, or at least was, when you were having it initially. – FumbleFingers May 8 '17 at 12:54
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    Although not as explicit as your example, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence entails a similar idea: people get used to what they have, and therefore seek out what they don't have. Your example stresses that people quickly get used to it, my example stresses the consequences of getting used to something. – Flater May 8 '17 at 14:51
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    "jaded" is a good word for this situation, but I would dispute that it's invariably good things. People in a warzone get jaded about living with danger, etc. – jhocking May 8 '17 at 21:08
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    I also think of "jaded" as someone who has been "burned" so many times by something that they can't be optimistic or inclined to give the benefit of the doubt. – Tom22 May 8 '17 at 21:42
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    "Don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft May 9 '17 at 0:00

13 Answers 13

59

"take for granted"

would be appropriate. From Oxford Dictionaries:

Fail to properly appreciate (someone or something), especially as a result of overfamiliarity. ‘the comforts that people take for granted’

  • 1
    While this seems appropriate for "People get used to good things", it doesn't seem appropriate for "People quickly get used to good things". – Tracy Cramer May 10 '17 at 0:51
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    quickly take for granted.... – twoleggedhorse May 10 '17 at 15:39
38

Might be unfamiliar, depending on your audience, but hedonic adaptation (or 'the hedonic treadmill') is perfect for this. Wikipedia:

The hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes. According to this theory, as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness.

  • 1
    OP asked for an idiom, not for scientific jargon. – TRomano May 9 '17 at 11:41
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    "Hedonic treadmill" is an idiom. – stannius May 9 '17 at 15:59
18

TFD(Idioms):

You never miss the water till the well runs dry.
Prov. People are not grateful for what they have until they lose it.

Jill: I never realized what a good friend Jeanie was until she moved away.
Jane: You never miss the water till the well runs dry.

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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    (sings) Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you got till it's gone? They paved Paradise, and put up a parking lot... – Matt Moran May 9 '17 at 15:42
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    @MattMoran "That was Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell, a song in which Joni complains they 'Paved paradise to put up a parking lot', a measure which actually would have alleviated traffic congestion on the outskirts of paradise, something which Joni singularly fails to point out, perhaps because it doesn't quite fit in with her blinkered view of the world. Nevertheless, nice song." - Alan Partridge – user4683 May 11 '17 at 9:32
  • Alan Gordon Partridge is a fictional character portrayed by English actor and comedian Steve Coogan. This posting could mislead people who are unaware that the comment cited is a joke by a fictional person. – user218195 Oct 31 '17 at 11:02
13

There's a proverb:

Familiarity breeds contempt

From ODO:

... proverb:

Extensive knowledge of or close association with someone or something leads to a loss of respect for them or it.

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    This misses the mark. OP is looking for something that expresses the human tendency for novelty to wear off - you want a new car, there is great anticipation, you buy the new car, there is elation, and then a week later you're used to it and it's nothing special anymore. You just get into it and drive to work every day like you used to - the magic fades. – J... May 8 '17 at 17:10
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    Familiarity breeds contempt, however, is usually a cautionary expression - a warning that due care, in situations of risk or danger, is taken less by those who have more experience. A typical example would be a shop worker who skipped a safety step because years of confidence and competence gave them a sense of being able to "hot-dog" the procedure to get the work done more quickly - then getting injured because they slipped and actually needed the safety step that they skipped. – J... May 8 '17 at 17:12
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    @J... - Your "shop worker" example, IMHO, is more of an example of carelessness. The phrase Familiarity breeds contempt is more suitable for personal relationships - between husband and wife, for example, or where a manager and subordinate begin to socialise out of work, and then the subordinate may feel that due to their friendship, he/she can start to take liberties at work, cut corners, not do the work that is required of them, general insubordination, etc. – Greenonline May 8 '17 at 18:09
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    @Greenonline, in the context of relationships, I believe the complete phrase is Familiarity breeds contempt... and children :P – flith May 9 '17 at 6:03
  • @Greenonline It is carelessness, but it is specifically carelessness that develops counterintuitively with experience - when you get used to doing something dangerous (which requires care, attention, and respect) successfully over a long period of time one can begin to lose mindfulness of the danger since years of doing it safely make the danger seem less real. – J... May 9 '17 at 14:14
8

There's a saying "What have you done for me lately?", which was around long before the 1986 Janet Jackson song. See for instance this 1977 newspaper article, which says in part:

In politics, as the old joke explains, power depends upon being able to give a heartfelt answer to the question "What have you done for me lately?" It is now the bureaucracy, not the [political] parties that grants critical grace and favors.

As parties shrink, lobbies take over, The Wilmington Post, December 31st, 1977

See also, "All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"

Life of Brian, Monty Python et. al, 1979

According to Garson O'Toole on the Linguist List, this goes back to a joke about bankers first printed in 1943.

2

To become complacent would possibly fit the bill here. It means to have a smug and uncritical satisfaction with your situation. The etymology is also suitable since it comes from the Latin word for to please.

[Paraphrased from Oxford Dictionaries]

  • Is this an idiom or phrasal expression? – Mari-Lou A May 11 '17 at 6:00
  • The latter, since the meaning can clearly be deduced from the meaning of the words. – Mad Physicist May 11 '17 at 12:44
2

There is a set phrase in U.S. divorce law to describe the expected level of support (in the form of alimony in some states, and through a suitable division of the couple's "community property" in others) of the nonworking spouse following the dissolution of a marriage:

"the lifestyle to which [one] has become accustomed"

Although I'm not sure how widely known this phrase is outside legal circles, I've heard nonlawyers use it on multiple occasions. A cartoonist named Sam Hurt used a jokey play on the phrase in his comic strip Eyebeam, in connection with a law student character who was mapping out the trajectory of his career after law school: "the lifestyle to which I would like to become accustomed."

In any event, the phrase is used idiomatically to refer to a certain level of affluence and comfort claimed as an entitlement—never to a level of straitened circumstance that one has grown accustomed to enduring—and in that respect implies "good things that one has gotten used to."

1

You could express something like this by starting:

How easily we forget...

or

Too easily we forget...

0

Give them an inch, they take a mile.

http://www.answers.com/Q/What_does_this_idiom_mean_%27give_him_an_inch_and_he%27ll_take_a_mile%27

Make a small concession and they'll take advantage of you. For example, I told her she could borrow the car for one day and she's been gone a week--give an inch! This expression, in slightly different form, was already a proverb in John Heywood's 1546 collection, "Give him an inch and he'll take an ell," and is so well known it is often shortened (as in the example). The use of mile dates from about 1900. (Proverb) Be generous to someone and the person will demand even more. (Describes someone who will take advantage of you if you are even a little kind to him or her.) "If you let Mark borrow your tools for this weekend, he'll wind up keeping them for years. Give him an inch and he'll take a mile."

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    This seems to be about people wanting more and more, not necessarily getting used to what they have – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft May 8 '17 at 23:58
0

"The grass is always greener (on the other side of the fence)". The meaning should be obvious, i.e. once you've got/achieved something, you'll likely start to want something else.

  • Oops, it appears I've just repeated Flater's suggestion from above. I honestly didn't see it before posting, as I'm just passing through and in a bit of a hurry. My bad. – user218195 May 9 '17 at 17:53
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    If you realize your answer is inappropriate and cannot be salvaged, it's typically best to delete it. – jpmc26 May 10 '17 at 0:57
  • Comments can be deleted on a whim, or by the mods @jpmc26, and flater's suggestion is in the comments, SE encourages users to write fully fledged answers. This isn't exactly fully fledged, but it is an "answer". – Mari-Lou A May 11 '17 at 5:59
-1

Apples grow faster from saplings than seeds

It is a much less negative idiom from the ones already mentioned, though maybe a bit... countryside.

-1

In the UK (and probably not elsewhere) there is a set of constructs built around "When I was young ...". Straightforward (non-jokey) usage might be "When I was young, I'd have put on a pullover rather than turning the central heating up". In this form there's a mild element of criticism of the younger person who has never known the hardship of how things used to be, but also a mild element of self-deprecating humour and recognition that the youngster is not going to fetch a pullover and turn the heating back down.

It goes from there through to a fake Yorkshire accent "When I were a lad, I had to break the ice in the toilet before I could have a morning pee" (which was true within my living memory), up to the full "Four Yorkshiremen" TV sketch with ever more hyperbolic and absurd claims, ending with the punchline "And if you try to tell that to the youth of today, they won't believe you!" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Yorkshiremen_sketch

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Here's the poetic way of saying it:

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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