This is maybe an esoteric scenario that doesn't have a clever idiom, but I feel like I can almost recall one but can't quite.

So the scenario would be along the lines of bringing something up that is uncomfortable that is not especially informative because everyone is already aware. For example, if a kitchen sink were dripping, and someone made a point of "informing" everyone every hour or so "man, that kitchen sink sure is dripping. I think it might be slightly worse than when I brought it up an hour ago." Or another example, if a relative were quite ill and has been for the last two years, and your cousin calls every week or two and says "I saw grandma this weekend. She looks terrible. I don't know how much longer she has."

The idea being that the person saying it might have ulterior motives for bringing it up, or just doesn't grasp that bringing it up as though things have gotten worse when they are really just as bad as before is more frustrating or upsetting than useful.

The first phrase that crossed my mind was "whistling past the graveyard", but apparently that has almost the opposite connotation, as it means to act cheerful when things are obviously dire.

I feel like a lot of reporting these days has this sort of vibe, where headlines wail about how much worse things are than they were yesterday when they reported nearly the same bad news, so I'm grasping for a turn of phrase that describes this sort of thing.

  • 'Constant complainer', or 'town crier', or 'beating a dead horse', or 'no shit, Sherlock', or 'broken clock'. I first thought the title said someone, in which case 'he who shall not be named'.
    – Chloe
    Dec 15, 2017 at 19:35
  • 1
    "Late to the party" comes to mind.
    – Kalmino
    Dec 15, 2017 at 20:17
  • 1
    It reminds me of the expression "yesterday's news", although the meaning isn't quite what you're after. "Something that everyone already knows about and is no longer interested in" according to the online Macmillan dictionary.
    – Al Maki
    Dec 15, 2017 at 21:42

10 Answers 10


Thanks, Cpt. Obvious!

Captain Obvious helps out

Loosely related to the expounder Mr. Exposition, a TV trope that provides infodumps or expounds the plot. An agitator or lamentor.

Additionally, AYKB (As you know, Bob), discussed here (Info dumps, Soap-boxing, Lecturing).

Sometimes described as the Turkey City Lexicon, or a FAQ Literator.

Loosely related concepts are: perverbs or Wellerisms (making fun of established clichés and proverbs by showing that they are wrong in certain situations, often when taken literally) and Tom Swifties (a speaker attribution that puns on the quoted statement).

  • also known as captain hindsight
    – albert
    Dec 15, 2017 at 11:25

There's the ever-popular act of beating a dead horse...

1 : to keep talking about a subject that has already been discussed or decided
from m-w.com

  • 1
    That one crossed my mind, but doesn't quite have the macbre tone I have in mind (with apologies to the horse that is beaten beyond death, which is admittedly gruesome). I guess I'm looking for something with more of a "calling out" vibe. Full disclosure, my inspiration for wanting a phrase was a headline I saw today: "John McCain described as increasingly frail, Senate sources say". We all know he's ill. This just feels like they can't wait to bury him.
    – Anthony
    Dec 15, 2017 at 5:33
  • 1
    The alternate version of this phrase is "flogging a dead horse", (which is the one I was raised on). Dec 17, 2017 at 1:33

I would say that they are harping on about something (for whatever motive).

If you say that someone harps on a subject, or harps on about it, you mean that they keep on talking about it in a way that other people find annoying.


Trump began promoting Moore by harping on how bad it would be to have a Democratic senator in Alabama.

Axios 12th December

The Ngram shows that there is equivalence between AmE usage and BrE.

  • 1
    Harping is such a simple and overlooked figure of speech. Also, your example reminds me yet again of how angry it makes me that "to trump" is now a nifty phrase that we can't use comfortablely anymore.
    – Anthony
    Dec 15, 2017 at 5:40
  • Yes, ‘harping on about’, or the less elegant ‘banging on about’. It reminds
    – Tuffy
    Dec 15, 2017 at 8:35
  • Sorry, ... it reminds me of the idea of ‘being a Jeremiah’ after the Old Testament prophet of doom. But that is not quite the same.
    – Tuffy
    Dec 15, 2017 at 8:37

My first thought on seeing the title was preaching to the choir.

However in the context(s) you went on to describe, @Hellion's answer is better. I've tried to upvote but apparently don't have enough reputation for it to affect the displayed score.


Not meaning to state the obvious, but the idiom I'd use for this behaviour is "stating the obvious."


The phrase No shit, Sherlock comes to mind. As does the expression Welcome to the party.

Both phrases mock the speaker for repeating information that everybody else already knows


"The elephant in the room" could be appropriate here.

  • 2
    Weclome to ELU. Why could that be appropriate? Generally the elephant in the room is something which is obvious but would cause too many difficulties if it was mentioned. If I've missed something, please edit your answer to include your reasoning.
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 16, 2017 at 12:19

Not as dramatic as some of the others, but preaching to the converted seems appropriate, or if expounding the negative preaching doom and gloom comes most immediately to mind.


Makes me think of "circling like vultures".

It's like you know about something that is currently happening or imminent, but you "can't help" but keep drawing attention to it even though the attention doesn't affect its progression.

You mentioned headlines; it reminds me of something like pointless daily reports on something that's ABOUT to happen (currently in a static state). Really, the event finally happening is the only worthwhile thing to note, but you've got nothing to talk about in the meantime.

  • This is my favorite so far. Whatever I'm thinking of probably doesn't exist, but this one comes the closest to conveying the menacing almost ghoulish tone I had in mind.
    – Anthony
    Dec 15, 2017 at 23:09
  • @Anthony if you're going for ghoulish you could just describe the person's behaviour as that. I've often described news coverage of the kind you describe using that very word. Dec 17, 2017 at 10:17
  • @Anthony "Circling like vultures" is not a common expression, yet, it exists. ngram, example related to news.
    – Theraot
    Dec 17, 2017 at 20:02
  • Yes, but it means something slightly different. Off the top of my head, a good example would be the common trope in detective dramas of a group of adult children awaiting the death of an elderly relative ... Dec 18, 2017 at 11:42

The person doing such talking is rubbing it in.


rub it in

  1. To make someone feel worse about an already bad, unpleasant, or undesirable situation or outcome.
    A: "You know that this means you won't get to qualify for the state championships, right?" B: "Sheesh, no need to rub it in, Dave."

Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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