29

Is there a proverb that fits the following situation:

John and Anderson (while walking):

John: [sees a $100 bill lying in the road, and shouts] Yahoo! $100!

Anderson: [takes the money and puts it into his pocket]

Reflection: John exclaimed when he saw the money in the road, but he didn't try to take it. Anderson was smarter, as, when he saw John exclaiming, he took the money and put it into his pocket. Consequently, John now repents his foolish excitement.

My question is, is there a proverb for such situations?


EDIT: When I asked my friend, he suggested the following saying:

"Some feel the rain others just get wet."

closed as primarily opinion-based by MetaEd Nov 2 '18 at 16:16

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 22
    "Some feel the rain others just get wet." I (native AmE speaker) have never heard that and would not associate it with this particular situation – Kevin Oct 29 '18 at 14:52
  • 6
    Another AmE speaker here, and I HAVE heard that phrase (some feel the rain...) multiple times before. But it was used in a very different sense, and don't see how it fits here. – Aethenosity Oct 29 '18 at 15:37
  • 9
    Quite related: "Everything not saved will be lost." -Nintendo 'Quit Screen' – aloisdg Oct 29 '18 at 16:06
  • 1
    I've never, ever heard the "rain..." phrase. Weird. – Fattie Oct 29 '18 at 17:53
  • 1
    I've head the word "pipped" being used (for example, "he was pipped to the post") – Richard Nov 1 '18 at 16:17
102

you snooze, you lose

informal
​if you do not pay attention and do something quickly, someone else will do it instead of you:
Cambridge Dictionary

If you wait too long to do something, that opportunity might become unavailable.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms

John: Yahoo! $100!
(Anderson takes the money)
John: Hey, I saw it first!
Anderson: You snooze, you lose.

  • 1
    That's certainly what most people would say today (and maybe for the last 30 years or so since it became a catchphrase). Some of the other answers would likely have been the ones to use before this became a catchphrase - or today if they were speaking more formally. – Henry Oct 29 '18 at 21:07
37

There are several possible sayings:

Actions speak louder than words.

[Cambridge Dictionary]

said to emphasize that what you do is more important and shows your intentions and feelings more clearly than what you say

The early bird catches the worm.

[Cambridge Dictionary]

said to advise someone that they will have an advantage if they do something immediately or before anyone else does it

He who hesitates is lost.

[Merriam-Webster]

—used to say that it is important to make decisions and do things in a quick and definite way
// I took my time and when I got to the store, they were all sold out. I guess "he who hesitates is lost."

  • 9
    "The early bird catches the worm" is definitely the most accurate one here. It is sometimes "gets" instead of "catches" as well. – Pierre Arlaud Oct 29 '18 at 9:09
  • 1
    And if you want something different for breakfast you have to get up later :-D – RedSonja Oct 29 '18 at 11:49
  • The phrase "the quick and the dead" is often used in a similar sense to "he who hesitates is lost" and its flavours - although it seems that in the original usage the term 'quick' simply meant 'living'. – Jeremy Oct 29 '18 at 13:43
  • 3
    Remember that "the early bird gets the worm" but "the second mouse gets the cheese"... – MD-Tech Oct 31 '18 at 12:10
  • 1
    @Amadeus That's what it has come to mean, but not what it originally meant. – Jeremy Nov 2 '18 at 15:55
23

Strike while the iron is hot.

This proverb advises you to act decisively and take advantage of an opportunity when it first presents itself. By waiting (as slow-witted John did) you risk losing your chance.

The meaning is derived from the work of a blacksmith. In order to shape iron, the smith has to strike it while it is glowing hot and malleable. If he waits too long and it cools down, it can’t be hammered or bent into a new shape. His opportunity has been lost.

15

Don't count your chickens before they are hatched.

It means, don't celebrate a victory that hasn't happened yet. It comes from the fact that not every chicken egg hatches out a chick. So if you count your future chickens from the number of eggs you have, you'll likely be overestimating.

It's very common in the US, and often used for just this type of situation. Also, with the same meaning (and likewise bird-themed)

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

In this case, the $100 is the bird in the hand. $100 in your hand is worth $200 on the ground...

13

One very common, albiet obnoxious phrase would be:

Finders, keepers; Losers, weepers

While this generally relates to the idea that once you find something that appears to be unowned - it is now your property - and not necessarily the idea of missing out on something, because you were too slow to act on it. It's such a common phrase in childhood, that it can be applied obnoxiously to imply "now that I've picked it up, it's mine - you cannot complain about it".

In this case, the one who picked it up first would consider themself the "Finder" and the one who lost out on it (the original owner, and the person who was too slow to pick it up) would be considered the "Loser".

Again, it's not a perfect phrase for this situation, but it is such a common idiom that it does get applied frequently to these kind of situations.

  • 2
    It's definitely not appropriate for this situation. It would be appropriate if the $100 bill had fallen out of John's pocket (without him noticing) and was then picked up by Anderson. – Eric Oct 31 '18 at 20:36
  • @Eric I've tried to make it clear that it's not an exact match. But it absolutely is a phrase that does get used in this situation, even if it technically shouldn't. – Bilkokuya Nov 1 '18 at 0:33
1

While the other answers dealt with one perspective (quite effectively at that) of the given situation, it appears that the OP's emphasis is on John's repentance.

Consequently, John repents over his foolish excitement.

In hindsight, John thinks he should not have shown his excitement (and that would have given him a better chance of grabbing the cash first, assuming Anderson did not see it yet). In other words, he should have kept it close to his chest.

TFD (idioms):

keep (something) close to (one's) chest

To keep one's plans, intentions, or tactics secret from everyone else.
Refers to holding one's playing cards close to one's chest in a card game, so as not to allow other players to see one's hand.
We're all curious about what the boss has been discussing in those meetings with the lawyers, but she's keeping it close to her chest.
Sorry for not being more straightforward about my plans, but I'm keeping this one close to the chest for the time being.

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

  • I've heard a similar expression many times before but it was "keep something" (or often "playing something") "close to the vest". I've never heard of keeping something close to the chest. I'm a lifelong Canadian of 60+ years and have only ever been fluent in English, although I can still understand my parents' language, which I learned first). – Henry Oct 29 '18 at 21:04
  • @Henry. While I totally understand your meaning, as a naturalized American in a similar situation, I find the phrase "lifelong Canadian" especially hilarious :) – Mad Physicist Oct 30 '18 at 15:46
  • @Mad Physicist - Why? I was born in Canada and have lived my whole life here. Doesn't that meet the definition of "lifelong Canadian"? ;-) – Henry Oct 31 '18 at 22:41
  • @Henry. Your meaning is quite clear. It's just something about the juxtaposition off the phrases that made me smile. I really can't put my finger on it. – Mad Physicist Oct 31 '18 at 23:15

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