22

The implication is that one must not display a disrespectful behavior in regards to his/her friends or the people he/she knows very well, because as the honey in the barrel won't be edible anymore after someone defecates in it, so the friendship or relationship can no longer last, in case one of the sides does something totally unacceptable. One must not exhibit such a behavior that will outweigh all of his/her good deeds. Is there a similar kind of idiom or profane saying in English?

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    I actually think that phrase would work and be readily understandable to an English speaker. I got it right away, at least. – HopelessN00b Mar 30 '18 at 23:05
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    @HopelessN00b You immediately understood “don’t shit in the honey jar” to mean ‘don’t disrespect your friends and family’? I very much doubt that would be universally understood. I certainly had absolutely no idea before reading the body of the question what it might mean. There are a fair few sayings that involve food in non-intuitive ways cross-linguistically; they’re usually quite idiomatic (i.e., logical enough, but not transparent). What would ‘stepping in the spinach’, ‘putting butter in the spinach’ or ‘peeing in the nettles’ mean, for instance? This seems similar to me. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 31 '18 at 1:06
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    @JanusBahsJacquet Honey barrel. A barrel of honey is obviously a community resource, so yes, the meaning is plain. – HopelessN00b Mar 31 '18 at 5:42
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    @HopelessN00b I have never heard of honey being stored (non-industrially) in barrels, nor of it being a community resource at all. The ‘community resource version’ of honey storage is an apiary. A honey barrel is something you make whiskey in, which is why I changed it to ‘honey jar’ in my first comment. I could imagine “don’t shit in the honey barrel” might mean something akin to “don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg”, but that’s quite different from the meaning intended here. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 2 '18 at 11:09
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    You must not understand this idiom literally, since it has a figurative meaning. Whether it is a barrel or a jar, it does not matter, the intended meaning remains the same. The point is that it is a Georgian idiom so, in our language we use the word - barrel. – Beqa Apr 2 '18 at 11:54

10 Answers 10

59

Don’t shit where you eat.

Per the Wiktionary entry,

(idiomatic, vulgar) One should not cause trouble in a place, group, or situation in which one regularly finds oneself.

Usage notes: Often used as a warning of the dangers of workplace romances.

Related to, and synonymous with, the already-suggested don’t shit in your own backyard and others, but far more common than those, by nearly a factor of 9, per Google Ngrams.

Exploring the Ngrams results suggests that this is regional: searching American English finds results for this, as well as don’t shit where you sleep (the variation I usually hear, probably for the alliteration) as well doorstep, but searching British English finds only results for the doorstep version.

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    I think this is close but there the OP's phrase seems maybe a little more specific. I typically use this when discouraging someone from engaging in behavior a work with major blow-back potential like pursuing a fling with a coworker. To me the 'eat' version implies a source of income or other source of monetary value. – JimmyJames Mar 30 '18 at 18:18
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    Judging by the title question it is close, but not by the situation mentioned in the body. – haha Mar 30 '18 at 19:04
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    As a British person I can say that the "on your own doorstep" version is the only version I recognise, in fact I would have suggested it as an answer if you had not. In response to @JimmyJames though the UK usage isn't restricted to workplace dalliance, it can be used in any context. – BoldBen Mar 31 '18 at 8:21
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    Don't shit where you SLEEP is specifically your home, which you probably share with other people. (OP's conditions: satisfied) Not eat, which is "at one's home, place of business, or any location where one frequents". – TFD – Mazura Mar 31 '18 at 16:55
  • John Ray, A Collection of English Proverbs (1678) mentions this saying in his section on "Adagia Hebraica": "Never cast dirt into that fountain of which thou hast sometime drank"—and then offers this gloss on it meaning: "The meaning is that we should not proudly despise or reproach that person or thing which formerly have been of use to us." – Sven Yargs Apr 1 '18 at 20:42
29

An English proverb with the same meaning is: don't bite the hand that feeds (you), according to The Free Dictionary:

Do not scorn or treat ill those on whom one depends or derives benefit, for to do so is to risk losing those benefits altogether. 1

This does not necessarily imply a position of superiority of the 'hand', consider the definition by Cambridge Dictionary:

to act badly towards the person who is helping or has helped you 4

If it should use offensive language, you might use don't shit in your own backyard, according to Urban Dictionary (click link for longer description):

A variant of "don't bite the hand that feeds you", 'Don't shit in your own backyard' means don't trash a good thing, take advantage of or ruin a close relationship. If you have a positive situation or loving or giving person in your life, you should be careful to protect it/them. 2

The rude version is most commonly used as shit in your own nest or shit on your own doorstep. To support that claim, consider this ngram. Thanks to @FumbleFingers for pointing this out in the comments.

Attribution:

1 "Dont Bite the Hand That Feeds." The Free Dictionary. Accessed March 30, 2018. https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/don't bite the hand that feeds.

2 "Don't Shit in Your Own Backyard." Urban Dictionary. Accessed March 30, 2018. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=don't shit in your own backyard.

4 "Bite the Hand That Feeds You Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary." Cambridge Dictionary. Accessed March 30, 2018. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you.

19

An idiomatic expression meaning one must not display a disrespectful behavior in regards to his/her friends or the people you know very well because ... the friendship or relationship can no longer last is "don't burn your bridges".

TFD(idioms):

burn (one's) bridges

2. To do something that cannot be easily undone or reversed in the future (often because one has behaved offensively or unfavorably). 
I think you really burned your bridges when you announced you were quitting and proceeded to insult your boss in front of the whole staff.
She's young, so I don't think she realizes that she'll be burning her bridges if she goes to work for their competitor.

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

6

I think the closest English adage would be "don't piss in the well", though, it's fallen out of common use as wells have fallen out of common use in the English speaking world.

I think KRyan's answer provides the most commonly used English saying conveying the same general sentiment.

  • This Georgian idiomatic expression partially behaves like a warning. Dont put your relationship at risk, by doing something totally unacceptable that may have unenviable consequences for you, in the sense that to whom youre interacting, may break up with you once and for all. – Beqa Apr 1 '18 at 20:14
4

In the UK, this expression means (to me) the same as our expression 'don't shit on your own doorstep' but it has a very specific meaning rather than a general one. Its use is usually confined to warning someone about not having an extra marital affair with the person who lives next door or just across the road or in the same street, or with a friend who is known to both members of the couple.

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    This was the phrase that came to my mind (initially from the title only; and confirmed by the body of the question). However, in my Br.E experience, it is not as narrow as bamboo suggests. It covers (almost) any act that if done locally would harm the perpetrator (or, possibly, their friends). – TripeHound Apr 1 '18 at 21:08
  • @TripeHound I'm English and have lived in the London UK area all my life - and the meaning I attribute to it is what all we natives understand by it... I have never known it used in any other sense. Though I accept it could be used in a broader sense, in theory – bamboo Apr 1 '18 at 22:15
  • We'll probably have to agree to disagree... I grew up in London, 10 years in Hull and 25 around Manchester. While the "extra marital affair" connotation is probably the most common use; I've definitely heard it used in more general senses. Still gets a +1 though. – TripeHound Apr 1 '18 at 22:22
  • @TripeHound that's why I mentioned London - its entirely possible the expression is used in a broader sense in other regions of the UK, I wouldn't know. London tends to be a little different to other areas, and not just in idiomatic expression – bamboo Apr 1 '18 at 22:24
2

Although not an idiom per se, it is perhaps an idiomatic usage of the word sabotage.

:1. destruction of an employer's property (such as tools or materials) or the hindering of manufacturing by discontented workers 2 : destructive or obstructive action carried on by a civilian or enemy agent to hinder a nation's war effort 3 a : an act or process tending to hamper or hurt b : deliberate subversion [Merriam Webster's]

In the case of an interpersonal relationship, one sabotages the relationship by doing something egregious or perceived as particularly insulting.

I sabotaged my relationship with my girlfriend by getting drunk and yelling at her mom.

Colloquially, the abbreviation sabo'd can be used.

1

I suggest that to capture the feeling and meaning of the original a mixed metaphor works well:

Don't shit on the hand that feeds you

This isn't standard, but it would be widely understood, based on the well-known uses in KRyan's and JJJ's answers.

1

I have heard this phrase with the same (or similar) meaning: "Don't crap where your live."

-1

Okay, I found a set of related idioms which are awfully close literally and somewhat close idiomatically though they are in the context of upsetting a specific person and also do not necessarily have the irrevocabilty aspect of the OP's Georgian idiom.

TFD(idioms):

piss in (someone's) Cheerios
piss in (someone's) Corn Flakes
piss on (someone's) bonfire
piss on (someone's) chips

[rude slang] To really upset, irritate, or disappoint someone. Primarily heard in US. 
Sorry to piss on your chips, but you won't get any credits for the class unless you attend every single lecture. 

A: "Watch out, the boss is on a foul mood today."
B: "Wow, I wonder who pissed on his chips?"

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

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    This isn't a "ruin things for everyone" situation, it's when someone does something to upset a single person. – Peter Cordes Mar 31 '18 at 20:04
-2

Related? Piss-in-the-Wind/Spit-in-the-Wind

piss in the wind
phrase of piss
1.
vulgar slang
do something that is ineffective or a waste of time.

Spit In The Wind

spit in the wind "Don't spit in the wind" is a commonly euphemized phrase in the USA, out of "Don't piss in the wind," a British nautical phrase with a literal meaning. Both phrases mean "Don't do something self-defeating," in the sense of "If you try to expectorate (urinate), don't do it into (against) the wind or the saliva (urine) will blow back on you in a nasty way."

A futile act is "spitting in the wind." So is a selfless but unheeding act that "boomerangs" or has dire consequences the doer hadn't contemplated, an act that "did more harm than good."

You don't tug on Superman's cape /    
You don't spit in the wind / *or 'into the wind'    
You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger /    
and you don't mess around with Jim."    

Popular song, "You Don't Mess Around With Jim", ca. 1972, James (Jim) Croce, singer/songwriter.

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    I don't think this works. Pissing into the wind only really works out poorly for the person doing it... shitting in a barrel of honey kind of ruins things for everyone. – HopelessN00b Mar 30 '18 at 23:08

protected by tchrist Mar 30 '18 at 23:16

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