In Scandinavia, we have expressions like "se spøkelser på høylys dag" ("see ghosts in broad daylight"), or "male Fanden på veggen" ("paint the Devil on the wall").

These mean that you always interprete a situation in the worst possible way, or that you always attribute to malice that which otherwise could have been explained by stupidity. It's an intense form of pessismism that can be through paranoia, or by self-victimization, or for any other reason. Whatever happens, it surely means the absolute worst. Whatever someone says, they surely have the worst intentions. The dictionaries define them as "seeing a situation as more negative than it really is", or "being afraid or nervous without any actual reason".

I believe I have heard a similar English idiom, but I cannot for the life of me recall what it was. Can you help me?

  • 2
    I like never a silver lining without a cloud but that's somewhat humorous, certainly doesn't plumb the abyssal gloom of the Scandinavians. Feb 23, 2023 at 14:52
  • There's also "wearing jade-colored glasses" (which contrasts with the idiom "wearing rose-colored glasses").
    – user888379
    Feb 23, 2023 at 20:13

2 Answers 2


Perhaps the most common such idiom would be "seeing the glass as half empty". As Wikipedia notes:

"Is the glass half empty or half full?" is a proverbial phrase, used rhetorically to indicate that a particular situation could be a cause for pessimism (half empty) or optimism (half full), or as a litmus test to simply determine an individual's worldview.

Some idiomatic terms for pessimists include "prophet of doom", "Chicken Little" (this term is a bit dated, in my opinion), and "Cassandra".


There are a couple of ways to describe pessimistic people:

used to refer to an attitude of always thinking about the bad things in a situation rather than the good ones

someone who is always saying that bad things are going to happen

a way of thinking or behaving that shows that you have no hope and expect to fail

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