There is a Russian expression "из песни слова не выкинешь", literally "one cannot throw a word out of song".

The meaning is that "when telling a story, one may not omit even unpleasant/unsavory details":

...during the interview he bad-mouthed his previous employers, he even call his former boss (sorry, one cannot throw a word out of a song), a 'bitch'...

or, more broadly, "a coherent structure loses its coherence when critical parts are removed":

...to prove this lemma, we need to consider seven cases; this is somewhat tedious, but one cannot throw a word out of a song, so let us begin with...

What is the English analogue of this expression?

Russian proverbs offered no "English equivalent" (I now added one, see below), just

Meaning: You cannot alter the information that many people know by heart. — Also: The following may contain obscene, rude or otherwise questionable content, yet it content cannot be omitted as it's an integral part of the story.

What I tried:

  1. google translate - does not look like an idiom
  2. google search lead to academic which offers "Pardon my French" which reflects just the narrow meaning and, eventually, "a word dropped from a song makes it all wrong" which sounds idiomatic enough.
  • I've reopened the question. Thanks for fleshing it out. – MetaEd Sep 15 '17 at 19:29
  • Along those lines: You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy. – Hot Licks Sep 24 '17 at 21:08
  • As a native speaker of English, I think that it's a beautiful expression that I would use verbatim. – empty Oct 15 '17 at 6:19
  • it's lovely as it is - I'd suggest trying to use it in English and see how it goes :) – Mark E K Oct 15 '17 at 7:41

"warts and all" comes pretty close.

Said to derive from Cromwell's instruction to his portrait painter to paint an accurate picture including his facial blemishes, it's employed to describe a comprehensive analysis / consideration that takes pains to include all the ugly and unpleasant features, besides other aspects in order to get a full and honest picture.

"If we want to pick up the business we'll need to collect some in-depth warts and all feedback from customers and staff"

"To get through this we're going to need to talk honestly about where our relationship is at, warts and all"

Portrait of Oliver Cromwell by Sir.Peter Lely


I am not aware of the existence of such a beautiful expression in English -- your suggestion of "a word dropped from a song makes it all wrong" could be a successful transposition of the original language, providing the context clearly explains what it means.

A translator could try:

  • if the person said something rude:

and such were his exact words

and I quote (verbatim)

and I will not alter/omit a word of what he said

please forgive my French (colloquial)

I apologize, ladies present (colloquial, dated)

  • for information that people know by heart:

to use the time-honored expression

as the saying goes


"You'll have to take the good with the bad."

But I like the original translation better.

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