Does English have any idioms for the tendency of many neophytes to try to be more Catholic than the Pope? (not necessarily in a religious sense only)

  • 3
    There's a phrase "the zeal of the new convert", but AFAIK it is mostly used to refer to religious zeal.
    – The Photon
    Apr 21, 2023 at 23:08
  • For some reason "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed" comes to mind, though it doesn't work with zealousness or strict adherence. Apr 21, 2023 at 23:44
  • 1
    I was thinking of "eager beaver", but none of the sources I found say that it's about a neophyte, it's just anyone really enthusiastic.
    – Barmar
    Apr 21, 2023 at 23:44
  • If you can provide the full context in which you plan to use the word, that would be helpful.
    – alphabet
    Apr 22, 2023 at 4:14
  • Often a nonce verb with a cognate object is created: "[He is/they are trying to] out-pope the Pope"; "out-professor the professor"; out-program the programmer", etc.
    – Greybeard
    Apr 22, 2023 at 11:48

1 Answer 1


The phrase a new broom sweeps clean means that a newly appointed person tends to make far-reaching changes or that changes are made energetically by [them].


Neophytes in general, not just new appointees, are acceptable tenors (the people referred to).

But change, especially sweeping change, is not always for the better. A balanced view expressing this caveat, the full proverb, is given by Wiktionary:

  • a new broom sweeps clean, but an old broom knows the corners

New management imposes radical changes, but those with prior experience have more knowledge.

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