I came across this line while reading the Novel Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer.

In the novel, Abel uses this line when he sees his hotel burned to the ground.

I searched a lot but found just one link in which explanation is given as follows , which is still not clear to me :-

Madry Polak po szkodzie

Equivalent: Lock the stable after the horse has bolted.

Literally: A Pole is wise after the damage has been done.

Any explanation is much appreciated.

  • 2
    Never heard this phrase before, but it would appear very self-explanatory to me. What do you think it could possibly mean? Please list all the different meanings that you have in mind. I can list only one.
    – RegDwigнt
    Aug 19, 2019 at 9:16
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    There's a similar one in welsh (Paid â chodi pais ar ôl piso) which has the don't cry over spilt milk*/*locking the stable door after the horse has bolted meaning. It literally means Don't lift your petticoat after you have wee'd. They don't all make sense in current day parlance - who wears petticoats anymore? (or wee's in public) - but are used as a phrase for a concept.
    – Smock
    Aug 19, 2019 at 10:22
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    Wee's -- who adds apostrophes to verbs in public? Aug 19, 2019 at 10:39
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    Whether it's a "slur" or not, "Pole" refers to someone of Polish heritage.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 19, 2019 at 20:48
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    @MichaelHarvey He didn't serve time for crimes against literature, but many people think that he should've done :-)
    – BoldBen
    Aug 20, 2019 at 8:06

1 Answer 1


Locking the stable (or barn door) after the horse has bolted is a common English idiom for fixing a problem when it's too late -- the damage has already been done.

The Polish version states it more simply: people only learn (become wise) after they made a mistake.

If this were being said by non-Polish people, the reference to Poles might be an ethnic slur (in less enlightened times it was common in America to use Poles as the butt of jokes). But since this is actually a Polish proverb, and the character is Polish, I believe it's just using "A Pole" to refer to people in general.

  • 2
    The OP provided a link to a Polish proverb to the effect of the item. I think it's at least vaguely possible that, rather than an ethnic slur, it's a direct copy of a Polish proverb. Considering that the Abel in the title of the book is Polish.
    – puppetsock
    Aug 19, 2019 at 20:38
  • Ah, I didn't understand the context. I've updated the answer to reflect that.
    – Barmar
    Aug 19, 2019 at 21:44
  • Why answer when the opening comment asks the poster to try to figure it out themselves? It seems to be obvious, as you acknowledge in posting without supporting evidence.
    – Xanne
    Aug 19, 2019 at 22:47
  • @Xanne When I first answered, I thought it was related to Polish jokes, which the OP would probably not know about. I've since realized that was wrong, but I already had an answer, so I revised it.
    – Barmar
    Aug 19, 2019 at 23:14
  • @puppetsock Yes, Abel in the title of the book is Polish. Aug 20, 2019 at 11:25

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