There was the following sentence in Washington Post’s (January 5) article titled “Rick Perry is no George W. Bush” with a subhead line, ‘Perry’s dubious award.’

Perry, who looks likely to fail at his presidential campaign, has also fouled the nest back home. The January issue of Texas Monthly magazine hands him the annual “Bum Steer’’ award — a major poke in the eye for the state’s top officeholder. The magazine’s “dishonor’’ has been given to a sitting governor only once before, in 1976.

I’m curious to know the exact idiomatic antonym(s) to “foul the nest back home.”

  • 6
    I don't think idioms tend to have "exact antonyms". – user13141 Jan 9 '12 at 22:29
  • @onomatomaniak: As a rule they probably don't, but personally I'm quite happy to say the antonym of shit in one's nest is to feather one's nest. I assume foul one's nest is a euphemism, but maybe US/UK usage difffers on that one! :) – FumbleFingers Jan 9 '12 at 22:40
  • @Yoichi Oishi: I think it's likely anglophones don't normally impute such a broad range to these metaphoric usages of "nest" (also "doorstep", as in "don't shit on your own doorstep"). We're usually talking about a single dwelling, and the implied "close nuclear family" who live there and share one's life, rather than using the metaphors in respect of issues which might bring [dis]honour to an entire local "hometown community". – FumbleFingers Jan 9 '12 at 22:49
  • An idiom has many more directions to it than a simple word, so there are many directions to be the 'opposite'. Do you have one in mind? – Mitch Jan 11 '12 at 16:10
  • @onomatomaniak: I agree, but there are so many idioms and proverbs that there really are lots of pairs of antonyms: "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" vs "silence is golden", "look before you leap" vs "the early bird gets the worm", etc, etc. So it's not unreasonable to hope for an opposite. – Mitch Jan 11 '12 at 16:13

A related idiom with the metaphor reversed is "feathered his nest". This would be to make one's nest comfortable instead of to make it filthy. However, the reversed metaphor does not have a positive connotation.

A related idiom with the connotation reversed is "cleaned house". This does have a positive connotation.


The usual idiom is "foul one's own nest," which means "to harm one's own interests."

There isn't an exact English equivalent to "故郷に錦を飾る" (which Google Translate renders as "return home as a hero") that I can think of offhand, but a similar idiom is "cover yourself in glory," which means "to be very successful and earn admiration."

You can say that these idioms can function as antonyms in that they have opposite senses:

Rick Perry didn't exactly cover himself in glory during his presidential campaign, fouling his own nest back home in Texas while giving debate performances that became the butt of jokes.

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