There is an informal expression used in my native language (Romanian) that may be literally translated to "it takes a look at the human being".

This is used when a person cannot use some kind of mechanism, asks for help to another person which can use the mechanism and the former one tells her this as a joke. It is often used when it is not clear why the mechanism does not work for the first person.

This can be understood by the following fantastic chain of events:

  • the mechanism is assumed to have some kind of sentience (at least to "see" the person)
  • a person tries to use it
  • the mechanism takes a look at the person and does not like what it sees
  • it decides not to work properly

The most similar idioms I know about are from the software development:

However I am interested in an expression for a more general usages.

Question: Is there an expression or idiom to express in an informal/funny way that it is a person's fault when something is not working?

  • People sometimes say "it doesn't like me", referring to a computer for example, which has a similar meaning to your Romanian idiom - that it seems to work ok for everyone else but not for the speaker (who is actually just not using it properly). Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 9:47
  • 'It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.' (Not polite at first hand.) Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 9:53
  • @MaxWilliams Why not post that as an answer?
    – Spagirl
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 10:19
  • Also not generalised, but another of interest is the DFU error ("Dumb f-ing user error", also from software development/maintenance). It's even used as an actual error code by some tech support divisions which use three-letter codes to indicate the type of error encountered, and it's also often used self-deprecatingly. Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 11:16
  • @MaxWilliams Agreed. Also, variants by person ("it doesn't like you") and severity ("it hates you"). Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 11:49

6 Answers 6


“I guess it just doesn’t like you”, would be how I would suggest phrasing it.

This matches the following OP criteria:

1) Focuses the issue as a personal issue of the person having trouble.

2) Humorous: The inanimate object has no particular sentiment.


P1: “ Why does the vending machine always eat my dollar?!”

P2: “It just doesn’t like you.”



P1: “Why does the printer never work for me?”

P2: “It just doesn’t like you.”


I've always used the expression 'finger trouble' :

(Computer Science) computing trouble caused by operator error, such as striking the wrong key

Free Dictionary

It can be used (and I do use it) in other contexts than computing, for example driving, when it can be 'finger trouble' with steering/gear-stick or 'foot trouble' regarding pedals.

Even worse is the 'fat finger' error which, from time to time, afflicts the financial markets. This is when some guy somewhere on the globe inputs six trillion instead of six hundred and everything screeches to a halt.


  • Very short and expressive idiom. Never heard of it before.
    – Alexei
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 20:52

The most common expression in Am English that most closely conveys the sentiment is:

"You're a jinx."

Jinx has a few uses and contexts, but calling someone "a jinx" usually means that they bring bad luck or negative energy along with them - which affects the performance of both, the living and the inanimate, in their presence.

  • That doesn't sound a very fun thing to say to someone... I know it can be said meaning to be funny, but its the kind of line that can either really be used with an edge, hidden by 'what? I was joking?' or be perceived to have such by anyone who is just having a bad day. Which is not to suggest at all that it can't be used, but that you might want to be a touch careful if using it with someone you don't know that well.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 10:18
  • @Spagirl - Seriously? As opposed to, say: "Get away from me, you're the kiss of death!"? My peers and I used this phrase in grade school - it's not that deep.
    – Oldbag
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 13:18
  • The OP asked for a 'funny' thing to say. I specifically didn't suggest 'jinx' couldn't be used, I advocated taking a little care. What is appropriate and funny in grade school may not be appropriate in an office environment, for example. And, in my view, hurting people's feelings, if avoidable, is something to take seriously.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 13:26
  • @Spagirl - My point was that it is a child's expression and anyone who would take it to heart would probably commit suicide over a remark like: "Oh, you changed your hair." Get thee away from Berkeley, Spagirl, and shake the dust from your feet. P.S. It is considered funny.
    – Oldbag
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 20:34
  • Sorry, can you explain the Berkeley comment?
    – Spagirl
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 20:41

A bad workman always blames his tools

A person who has done something badly will seek to lay the blame on their equipment rather than admit their own lack of skill.

I must admit that I don't know how widespread is the use of this proverb among native speakers of English, but it's at least codified by Oxford.

Oxford dictionaries link.

  • "It's a poor workman who blames his tools." was a common expression in Canada in the 1950s and 60s but I haven't heard it used in a long time. Personally, I like it.
    – Al Maki
    Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 2:55

Anthropomorphizing this situation, English often uses terms like "wrestled/fought/struggled with the controls/code/mechanism/etc." That can be light or serious depending on context. Serious: "He wrestled the ship's wheel in the storm." Light: "He fought with the microwave clock settings but was ultimately defeated."


I've heard people say "It has a mind of its own."

  • 1
    Unfortunately that doesn't work, because it doesn't "express ... that it is a person's fault when something is not working". Instead it puts the blame on the equipment.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 19:33

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