I'm trying to remember an idiom I once heard that describes a 'sloppy' victory.

For context, I first heard this idiom used some months ago in my workplace which deals with cinema and storytelling, so there's a chance it might be a trope and not a colloquial idiom or similar. The structure is "an X Y", like "a Pyrrhic victory" or "a dead duck."

It's meant to describe an effort where there is a string of mistakes, some of which compound into another - "a series of unfortunate events" - but at the end of it all, the job is still complete, or the victory is still had. The tonality is neutral to positive.

A friend suggested "by the skin of one's teeth" which is similar but it doesn't hit the structure and the tonality is more... earnest? (Whereas the one I'm thinking of is almost comical.)


2 Answers 2


Choice may depend on context and on the degree to which you specify a "string of mistakes", but four notions come to mind:

It is the "right outcome for the wrong reasons", a "happy accident", a fluke.

Right for the Wrong Reasons

Someone makes a conclusion based on what they perceive are facts. Their conclusion is correct but the assumed facts themselves are wrong.

TV Tropes

happy accident = when something unexpectedly good comes from what would otherwise be considered a mishap.

"The discovery of Guinness was a happy accident"

Urban dictionary

fluke = something good that has happened that is the result of chance instead of skill or planning

Cambridge dictionary

Another single word description is

serendipitous: come upon or found by accident; fortuitous:

"serendipitous scientific discoveries."

of, relating to, or suggesting serendipity. good; beneficial; favorable:

"serendipitous weather for our vacation."



UPDATE: Unfortunately none of the answers here quite came close, so I did a lot of internet digging. My room mate of all people wound up linking me to some old website with lists of idioms that I went through one by one - "comedy of errors" is what I was looking for!

  • 1
    Just beware that a comedy of errors does not necessarily imply victory or success, only that the path has been made farcical by a series of mistakes or mishaps which are either silly in their nature or in their sheer multitude.
    – Steve
    Jan 24, 2021 at 10:11

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