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The expression contains two words:

  1. бряцать – to rattle
  2. регалиями – stems from regalia, but more like medals here

The figurative meaning is to show off one’s life experience. I.e., in an argument, instead of providing logical rationale behind one’s position, to stress an argument from authority and/or “superior” life experience.

As an example, the expression could also be used in a context where someone (say Alice) wants to get a better deal for his/her acquaintance (say Bob) from a third person (say Charlie). So Alice could come to Charlie and ask for a favour showing off all the past favours she did to Charlie. In this case, Charlie could say jokingly “You do not need to rattle your medals here, I was going to propose a discount anyway.”

In this example, the metaphorical regalia are not past favours that Charlie had from Alice and now she wants to redeem them (like coupons). No, it is more like Alice thinks she has some intangible leverage (as opposed to tangible, like a gun or a pair of goons by her side) which in her mind is enough to ask for a favour. Again, could be used jokingly or seriously.

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    – tchrist
    Mar 19 at 0:44

9 Answers 9

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The Russian original is well explained in your question, which nicely transfers the discussion from trivial translation to English Language and Usage.

Rattling your medals is to assert your position or authority not on the basis of reasoned or presently justified argument but to assert it only on the basis of previously acquired status.

One equivalent in English is to pull rank.

Cambridge

pull rank:

to use the power that your position gives you over someone in order to make them do what you want:
He doesn't have the authority to pull rank on me.

The implication in both cases is that the authority derives from rank (or status) alone and not from rational argument.

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  • 1
    The Alice and Charlie example is a little different from your main question so I did not deal with it. In this case Charlie might say that Alice need not call in favours or pull in favours. Good references for this usage are not easy to find.
    – Anton
    Mar 16 at 8:10
  • It is not about favours. As I commented on another answer, the metaphorical regalia are not past favours that Alice wants to redeem now.
    – mark
    Mar 16 at 14:38
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    I hesitate to agree with Pull Rank because it implies that the person actually has rank to pull. "Rattling your medals" makes me think of a military veteran trying to get free drinks by reminding people that he fought for them. (Something that, in my understanding, most veterans wouldn't do and might consider a bit pathetic), Waving around your accomplishments to remind people of them. Pulling Rank is more authoritative. Mar 16 at 15:30
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    Might this be a societal difference here, where the communist past of Russia shows? In anglophone countries 'to pull rank' only works if both the puller and the pulled-upon are in the same organization - in a communist society, the society itself may be viewed as the overarching organization that bestows honors - @mark can you find the earliest example of not-in-the-same-hierarchy medal rattling?
    – loonquawl
    Mar 17 at 7:26
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    @Ruadhan2300 "Waving around your accomplishments" may be a good answer.
    – justhalf
    Mar 18 at 8:33
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An English equivalent is:

throw one's weight around

INFORMAL

be unpleasantly self-assertive.

"he didn't swagger or throw his weight around"

You want to avoid “rattle” because English has a phrase “to rattle his cage,” which means to get the attention of a person in power.

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  • 9
    Good answer, but I disagree that "rattle someone's cage" necessarily has to do with a power dynamic - it just means to get someone's attention by upsetting them. Cage-rattling can go either way, but I'd argue that a person in power has more ability to rattle the cages of people below them, rather than underlings rattling the cage of the powerful person. Rattling someone's cage is a means of exerting power over them, and would generally flow down the power structure rather than up. Mar 16 at 19:57
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    I like the "throw one's weight around" - it is not the same as the russian idiom, because OP specified that the person doing the rattling has no actual weight to throw around, in this encounter, but this might be about perception, i.e both the rattler and the weight-thrower might be unaware that their medals/weight have no relevance in the current context.
    – loonquawl
    Mar 17 at 7:34
  • @NuclearHoagie interesting, I've never thought of rattling someone's cage to mean specifically upsetting them. My grandfather uses the phrase to mean giving someone a call to say hi! Mar 17 at 12:26
  • @MissMonicaE: That sounds like a jocular use of the idiom, joking that you're going to give them a hard time when you call. If you only ever heard it in that context, yeah you wouldn't pick up on the original / standard meaning! merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rattle%20someone%27s%20cage defines it as making someone worried or upset. Google's definition (from OED) is to "put pressure on" someone. Also en.wiktionary.org/wiki/rattle_someone%27s_cage Mar 18 at 14:31
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it is more like Alice thinks she has some intangible leverage (as opposed to tangible, like a gun or a pair of goons by her side) which in her mind is enough to ask for a favour.

People like Alice are often said to act entitled, meaning that they think they deserve whatever they want, whether they actually do or not.

If Alice has some particular past accomplishment that she uses as leverage or just to elevate herself above others, she might be said to lord it over those around her. If she uses her celebrity to get favors, she could be said to dine out on it.

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In classical rhetoric, this was called an argument from authority or an appeal to authority, with negative connotations as this was considered a “logical fallacy.” Both had Latin equivalents that were sometimes dropped into English sentences.

More positive ways to describe this include life experience, which seems to have become “lived experience” in recent years, personal experience, or expertise.

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I went in search of idioms that would fit into the context of your example scenario & sentence:

Someone (say Alice) wants to get a better deal for his/her acquaintance (say Bob) from a third person (say Charlie). So Alice could come to Charlie and ask for a favour showing off all the past favours she did to Charlie. In this case, Charlie could say jokingly “You do not need to __________ here, I was going to propose a discount anyway.”

  • beat your chest
  • go all silverback on me
  • get too big for your boots
  • be vainglorious
  • put on airs
  • be a tin god

all of the above (with the possible exception of the first two, which might be ok if A and C are good friends) would probably be regarded as rude comments (getting more rude lower on the list), so i am not sure whether they are a good fit.

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I don't believe there is a direct equivalent, I've certainly not found one.

But on the other hand, English is a very flexible language and new idioms arise all the time.

If you told someone they didn't need to "rattle their medals", I think a lot of people would understand what you meant from the context.

The example you give of someone (unnecessarily) reminding another person of their accomplishments as a means of getting what they want, then being told they don't need to do that?

A few responses that might be heard in a similar context:

Keep your hair on! - "Don't rush me"/"Calm down"
Put your d*ck away - Very informal and impolite instruction to stop waving around their "medals"
Don't jump the gun - The person has started by applying their "medals" as leverage, assuming it was necessary. Rather than simply asking for the favour and escalating.
That cheque don't cash - Very dated idiom, best said with a mobster-voice. Basically saying that what they're doing isn't going to work. Good for comedic effect nowadays.

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The phrase blow one's own trumpet comes to mind: (source)

Definition of blow one's own trumpet

British, informal

: to talk about oneself or one's achievements especially in a way that shows that one is proud or too proud

// He had a very successful year and has every right to blow his own trumpet.

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  • Can it be used like this - "He came to me yesterday blowing his own trumpet and demanding favours" ?
    – mark
    Mar 18 at 15:22
  • I think that sentence needs elaboration and context; but for the example you gave in the question, the idiom works. Alice could come to Charlie and ask for a favour showing off all the past favours she did to Charlie. Charlie could say "I was going to propose a discount anyway, no need to blow your own trumpet!" Mar 18 at 16:54
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To "rest on one's laurels."

To rest on one’s laurels means to be satisfied with one’s past accomplishments and not put forth any further efforts. In ancient Greece, the laurel was a plant that was sacred to the god Apollo. Laurel wreaths were awarded to the winning athletes in the Pythian games, held in honor of the god Apollo every four years. Later, laurel wreaths were awarded to signify other victories and honors, in Greece and Rome. The term rest on one’s laurels doesn’t appear until 1831, it is a phrase that denotes laziness and is not a compliment. Related phrases are rests on one’s laurels, rested on one’s laurels, resting on one’s laurels.

Examples

Republic of Ireland defender Ciaran Clark says his side will not rest on their laurels after earning a 1-1 draw with Bosnia & Herzegovina in the first leg of their Euro 2016 play-off. (The Belfast Telegraph)

It’s easily one of her best albums to date and another example of Madonna’s refusal to rest on her laurels. (The Huffington Post)

Knox could have been forgiven for resting on his laurels after claiming his first PGA Tour title and the first prize of €1,300,000 in Shanghai on Sunday, carding a final round of 68 to hold off the likes of world number one Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson (The Irish Times)

We cannot forget that equal rights should apply to more than just marriage; we cannot rest on our laurels when some in our society are still condemned to live in the shadows. (Newsday)

Fresh from her stupendous success this year, world tennis doubles champion Sania Mirza said she will not rest on this year’s laurels but will train hard to win more titles. (The New Indian Express)

Now, despite the years flying past, John McLaughlin looks about two decades younger than 73, and he remains one of those commendable artists who continues to search rather than resting on laurels. (The Sydney MOrning Herald)

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  • 1
    To me, the phrase "rattle one's medals" suggests boasting about their achievements in a way that to "rest on one's laurels" does not. Mar 18 at 15:44
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    I think "rest on one's laurels" has an exact equivalent in Russian - "почитать на лаврах". It is almost one to one translation and it has the same idiomatic meaning in Russian as in English. Which makes sense, since both languages have taken it from the same source. But I tend to agree with @KillingTime - it is not the same as the expression in question.
    – mark
    Mar 18 at 15:55
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In the US Army, I have heard the expression of some officers who are graduates of West Point Military Academy as "ring-knockers," because in a meeting, to emphasize their pedigree as professional elite soldiers, they were (supposedly) known to rap their West Point ring on the table, to call attention to it...and that other officers were not West Point graduates.

This may be the closest comparison to "rattling one's medals." But the expression "ring-knocker" is not generally known to the English-speaking public, so most Americans would be unfamiliar with the reference.

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