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In my language we have an expression which literally translated is “He was born a fireman but died in a fire” as a nice methaphor for a big shift in your way of thinking (like from conservative to reactionary). How would you say that in an elegant English?

By the way, the original expression in Italian is Nacque pompiere ma morì da incendiario (and you can say also the other way round).

  • Are you thinking of this type of thing? – tchrist Dec 16 '17 at 16:24
  • @tchrist - I don’t think so, the question is about an idiomatic expression that defines a radical change of mind. – Hachi Dec 16 '17 at 16:28
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    Thanks much, I do think it helps. Born a sinner but died a saint doesn’t seem too farfetched. – tchrist Dec 16 '17 at 16:48
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    Also, he had a change of heart. – aparente001 Dec 16 '17 at 17:48
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    Aha, incendiario is a fire; not incendiary. It's literally: born a firefighter but dies by fire. Born a saint but died a martyr? I think it means that you are born to do one thing, and that thing ends up killing you. I do not think that means a radical shift in point of view. – Lambie Dec 16 '17 at 17:59
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We have the expression :

poacher turned gamekeeper.

It is used in various contexts where someone changes from one position into the opposite, though often it is when someone assumes an authoritative position (the gamekeeper phase) who once was in the position which was subject to regulation (the poacher phase).

1.BRITISH someone who now protects the interests they previously attacked. "in the clearest case ever of poacher turned gamekeeper, the brewers are joining together in a crusade against alcohol abuse"

Google Dictionary

University poacher turned gamekeeper sets sights on vice-chancellors’ pay

The Guardian 10th October 2017


The Ngram shows stronger usage, BrE over AmE, and dates the saying from about 1900.

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  • @FrancescoMarchioni Glad to be of service. – Nigel J Dec 17 '17 at 15:42
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The examples people have given mean the opposite of what you want to say. I cannot think of an idiomatic phrase in English with that meaning in English. I would use a near-literal translation "a firefighter turned arsonist" in inverted commas and then explain just what you mean.

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You mean something like these?

If You Are Not a Liberal at 25, You Have No Heart. If You Are Not a Conservative at 35 You Have No Brain

(from Quote Investigator, which gives other examples)

Or another

He was a liberal until he got married and had kids, after which he was conservative.

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