In my language, we have a phrase which roughly translates to "don't roll around where you've fallen". It indicates that a person has said or done something stupid. Then when someone points this out, they still don't stop and pretend to be right, in order to avoid shame due to being wrong. Hence the phrase means: "You've already fallen, don't try to roll around and pretend you're still up".

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    Saving face might be one explanation for this.
    – user97231
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 11:47
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    "Double down". Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 13:59
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    ColonD I suspect options like "When you're in a hole, stop digging" work well and the reason no-one could be sure is that you said your phrase roughly translates… Would you mind telling us what language you're starting from, how exactly the original phrase was spelled in that language and what you might accept as a literal translation with no word altered to accommodate anything English? Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 20:42
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    Does this question have anything to do with the current US Federal Government (or its high-ranking official)s' methods of following up after doing something stupid?
    – WBT
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 19:58
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    One from I think the 1700s/1800s was "If you shit in your hat, no need to put it on your head"
    – Fattie
    Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 22:23

12 Answers 12


When you're in a hole, stop digging.

Michael Josephson has this to say:

Most of us have lied to get out of trouble. From childhood denials (“It wasn’t me!”) to adult fabrications (“The check is in the mail…”), what seem like harmless falsehoods easily fall from our tongues. And then we make up more excuses or tell more lies to protect the first one. Soon the “cover-up” is more serious and credibility-damaging than whatever we lied about in the first place.

The natural tendency to avoid discomfort makes our lives more difficult in other ways as well. Some people damage or endanger their most important relationships at home or work by failing to acknowledge and deal with small problems that then fester into serious ones.

Here’s a useful piece of advice: “When you’re in a hole, stop digging.” Whether our problems are of our own making or not, whether we know exactly how to resolve them or not, the first step is to stop making things worse. Stop making excuses. Stop blaming others. Stop ignoring our strong and persistent feelings. And stop dismissing and discounting what others are telling us about their needs and feelings.

Once we stop digging, we can work on getting out of the hole. It may take more honest self-reflection, self-restraint or simple will power. Perhaps we have to adjust our schedules or simply be more attentive and considerate. Sometimes the best thing to do is ask for help and someone will throw us a rope.

Like so many aspects of character, this is often easier said than done. But when we manage our lives thoughtfully and with integrity, things do get better.

It is often associated with the British politician Denis Healey (reference to the Telegraph. Also credited at BrainyQuote.) However, as JJJ kindly points out, there are previous instances of its use, an earlier form being used by none other than Edward Murphy in the Washington Post in 1911. [cited in 'Behold the Proverbs of a People: Proverbial Wisdom in Culture, Literature ...' By Wolfgang Mieder].

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    According to this book it was used in the Washington Post in 1911 as: "Nor would a wise man, seeing that he was in a hole, go to work and blindly dig it deeper"
    – JJJ
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 12:58
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    what about 2nd, 3rd AND 4th laws of holes: safalniveshak.com/investing-five-laws-of-holes
    – lbf
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 13:55
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    It might help to note that sometimes this is expanded or shortened with the addition or substitution of the phrase, "throw away the shovel". Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 14:28
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    People sometimes don't say the exact expression, but will say things like "you're just digging yourself in deeper." Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 14:42
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    I'm having trouble parsing the first sentence of the last paragraph.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 14:44

Don't embarrass yourself any further.

John, just shut up. Don't embarrass yourself any further!


"Doubling down" is when you've said something, you're wrong, someone points it out, and you just keep on going instead of admitting your mistake.

"Digging your own grave" is similar, used when you've said or done something foolish or wrong and you try to get yourself out of the situation but instead just keep making it worse.

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    "You're digging your own grave" is a good one which I like to use, however, I wouldn't use it in this context (ie, that you've already done something stupid and still are). I use it as foreshadowing to try and stop someone from doing something stupid.
    – caesay
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 18:08
  • To answer the question properly, you would say, "Don't double down" or "Don't dig your own grave." Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 21:04
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    Doubling down is a gambling term and doesn't imply that you've made a mistake, it's just that you are placing more emphasis on it.
    – IchabodE
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 22:50
  • Both very good answers. Can you link to some official source where doubling down is used outside of the gambling term? I did see an urban dictionary reference, but I'm not sure if that's a good enough source
    – ColonD
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 3:49

Here are a couple of related alternatives:

You'd better cut your losses. This doesn't have as close a meaning as the "stop digging" answer, but it's pretty common.

You've already made things bad enough for yourself. Stop now and cut your losses.

Similarly, when someone takes action to stop losses, this can be called stopping the bleeding.

Things are getting worse. We need to stop the bleeding.


When you make the worst of an already bad situation, you add insult to injury.

To add insult to injury is to make a bad situation become worse by saying or doing something.

  • He returned to the buffet for seconds, adding insult to injury.

  • If you try to explain why you're drunk, you'll only add insult to injury.

  • To add insult to injury, she refused to drop the subject.

  • Buttering the burnt toast added insult to injury.

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    Adding insult to injury is normally something that someone will do to someone else. And the insult part is usually something small. For instance, if I knock you into the mud, then I rip the corsage from your lapel, I've added insult to injury.
    – IchabodE
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 22:52
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    I agree that "insult to injury" doesn't quite fit this context, or really any of your examples. These strike me more as something people who are unfamiliar with the expression would say. More appropriate is something like, I downvoted your answer, and, to add insult to injury, I added a comment that you don't know what you're talking about.
    – Andrew
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 21:49

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

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    Scott, have you thought about what that actually means? There are endless circumstances in which remaining silent, or being thought a fool or both would be preferable… but compared to "speak and to remove all doubt" can you name one that holds any water? Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 20:38

My first thought was "putting the other foot in your mouth", as well but that may be more related to doing or saying something embarrassing that outright stupid.

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    That looks like an interesting adaptation of a well-known saying. Try finding some references to back up your point, and link to them.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 2:34

Add fuel to the fire - to make a problem worse; to say or do something that makes a bad situation worse; to make an angry person get even angrier.




"'Tis better to be considered the silent fool than to open ones mouth, and remove all doubt ! " This, or some very similar phrase is an old one which never becomes an ineffective or irrelevant platitude. I believe its sums up the 'gist' of your saying as well. addendum: haha... as soon as i posted i read the post above mine.. and got 'dittoed'


"You've made your bed, now lie in it."

Meaning you made a mistake or done something silly and now you must deal with the consequences.

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    The OP is looking for something to say "Don't make it worse", not "Deal with the consequences".
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 2:33
  • You are correct, I didn't read the question closely enough. My bad. Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 8:11

Lipstick on a pig

"You've already fallen, don't try to roll around and pretend you're still up".

It's a bad situation, product, scenario... Don't try and pretty it up and call it good.

Condolences to the bad rap given to swine.


Ok... so I'll compose one too.. " Despite being an epic distraction, placing the other foot in your mouth as well leaves you quite unable to make a graceful exit, unless.... Um.. never mind, even "This Old Man" had to endure Knick-Knacks, Police brutality, and finding a bone to avoid a bite from Paddy's dog, before he was able to come 'Rolling Home' also legendarily ungraceful !"

I suppose my attempt would be better served as an English adage to your original saying if it ended at 'graceful exit.'.. but then "This Old Man" came to mind so i embellished some. I do, of course, usually strive for concision, if possible, when offering a suggestion or an answer, contrary to this tangentially rambling digressive explanation. haha

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