12

In Russian language there is a proverb "Пока гром не грянет, мужик не перекрестится".

Literal translation would be something like this: the peasant will not cross himself before it begins to thunder. It is said in situations when somebody has been delaying / putting off the required actions until it became too late and as a result they have to deal with a much bigger problem and usually in a rush.

For example, not doing regular maintenance of a machine which led to its break down and expensive repair and down time. Or, ignoring security vulnerabilities in a software system until somebody hacks it, after which it becomes an emergency situation and people are in a rush trying to fix it. Or, a student ignores and puts off regular assignments during the semester and when he gets a reminder from the professor that the deadline is tomorrow tries to complete all of them at once in a rush.

In general, choosing to react to emergencies (usually in a rush) instead of proactively trying to prevent emergencies (during normal "business as usual" operations).

I'd like to focus more on phrases that describe a situation when an action done early is much easier than an emergency fix after the disaster strikes.

Another similar Russian proverb would be "пока жареный петух в задницу не клюнет" with the literal translation "until a roasted rooster pecks you in the ass".

Is there an idiomatic expression / proverb in English language for these situations / attitude?

8
  • A related term is "fire fighting" - "the practice of dealing with problems as they arise rather than planning strategically to avoid them." but this isn't a whole idiom like "the peasant will not cross himself before it begins to thunder" Dec 21, 2023 at 12:31
  • 2
    Does this answer your question? English proverb for when a solution comes too late ('trying to remedy a situation foolishly after the tragedy happened') Dec 21, 2023 at 12:39
  • @EdwinAshworth, I think the suggested duplicate question has a direct equivalent in Russian "хороша ложка к обеду" - my literal translation is "a spoon is good at dinner time" (google found a better variant "a spoon is dear when lunch is near"); which doesn't quite correspond to what I'm after. It focuses more on when a solution comes too late to be of any use - when the lunch is over the spoon is useless. I'd like to focus more on what PLL showed "a preventive fix done early is much easier than an emergency fix after disaster strikes". Dec 21, 2023 at 13:54
  • 3
    Then A proverb that expresses the idea that an unaddressed problem will lead to {serious} conseuences has answers and I'd say is a duplicate: ' the idiom a stitch in time saves nine describes the situation well: Solving a difficulty while it is small may save a great deal of trouble in the end.' Dec 21, 2023 at 14:58

8 Answers 8

20

‘A stitch in time saves nine’ expresses essentially the same idea: a preventive fix done early is much easier than an emergency fix after disaster strikes.

The main difference is the temporal standpoint: A stitch in time… is phrased as motivating the early fix while there’s still time; OP’s Пока гром не грянет… regrets the early fix having been missed; Kate Bunting’s suggestion of Shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted describes the fix coming too late to be any use at all.

3
  • 1
    I personally like this variant more than Kate's, because it fits into my situation better. Your point that Kate's suggestion describes the fix coming too late to be any use at all is spot on. The phrase you suggested focuses on "a preventive fix done early is much easier than an emergency fix after disaster strikes". This is exactly what I'm after. Dec 21, 2023 at 13:43
  • 3
    My mother was fond of "an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure". Dec 21, 2023 at 20:48
  • Conversely, a stitch in nine saves time. ;)
    – PM 2Ring
    Dec 22, 2023 at 13:21
19

Shut the stable door after the horse has bolted seems quite close to your intended meaning.

0
6

Kicking the can down the road.

Idiom: to avoid or delay dealing with a problem

2
  • 1
    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Dec 21, 2023 at 20:56
  • 2
    In particular I have seen this used to imply an expectation that when it does become urgent it'll be someone else's problem, the kicker having moved on. Dec 21, 2023 at 23:04
4

The only phrase I can think of, is we would sometimes describe a situation like this as 'an accident waiting to happen'. It literally suggests that the situation/method in use brings forth disaster on itself—and usually implies that something should be done about it, or, if the disaster has already occurred, that it is no surprise and that something should have been done.

3
  • 3
    Thank you for your suggestion. I'm thinking of a somewhat different connotation. In my examples the proverbs speak mostly of the general laziness of the person rather than maliciously not following best practices. Probably indifference/passivity/ignorance of possible adverse future if no action is taken in advance. Dec 21, 2023 at 5:18
  • 3
    @VladimirBaranov "An accident waiting to happen" generally connotes negligence, not malice.
    – alphabet
    Dec 21, 2023 at 5:50
  • Nevertheless, @Aaron, this is why it's always good to include citations from a reliable source (e.g. a dictionary entry for the idiom).
    – alphabet
    Dec 21, 2023 at 5:51
2

‘Whistling past the graveyard’ can be taken in a number of ways, but the one I mostly think of applies here. To me, it conjures an image of someone blissfully ignorant of (or studiously ignoring) the inevitable.

Merriam Webster has a good example of this usage:

As New Orleans managed to sidestep a series of devastating storms that had borne down on the city in the years before Katrina, the response of government at all levels was essentially to whistle past the graveyard.

— Adolph Reed Jr., The New Republic, 27 Apr. 2021

1
  • 1
    Seems similar to "bury your head in the sand" Dec 21, 2023 at 15:43
2

How about Kicking it into the long grass? The meaning being you know something needs to be done/fixed/whatever, but you'll put it off for as long as possible.

0

"Procrastination is the enemy of success"

is a more recent quote that is starting to spread and seems to fit OPs translation that putting things off is the cause of problems later

0

Once it rains, it's too late to fix the roof.

1
  • 1
    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Dec 22, 2023 at 6:25

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.