14

In my mother tongue (Gujarati) there are two phrases describing the adverse effects of doing a favor. What are their English equivalents, if any?

The phrases are:

  • આંગળી આપેને પ્હોંચો પકડે (someone) is offered a finger and (they) grab the hand

  • ધરમ કરતા ધાડ પડી Making a donation and getting robbed. ધરમ કરતા more often means performing religious ceremony, so another interpretation could be to get robbed while doing pooja.

  • Could you list the phrases in your language? That would be interesting. – Bobbi Bennett May 16 '12 at 17:18
  • 2
    @BobbiBennett I listed them in Gujarati but I don't know how it can be interesting for someone who does not read the script :) – Miserable Variable May 16 '12 at 17:40
  • 2
    In Hungarian, the phrase "I offer my little finger and he wants my whole hand" is used exactly in this form. I doubt the two languages are that closely related. – vsz May 16 '12 at 19:16
  • 1
    If someone were to offer me the finger, I would take it as a rude gesture. If someone were to suggest I pull their finger, I would expect a rude, flatulent, response (a fart). – Bobbi Bennett May 16 '12 at 19:28
  • 1
    In Italian, the phrase reads as "If you give him a hand, he'll take the arm". In same language, "Giving <someone> a hand" is the equivalent of "helping <someone>". – Erik Burigo May 17 '12 at 11:58
26

Your first example has a direct equivalent:

Give them an inch and they'll take a mile.

  • 2
    I wouldn't call that a direct equivalent (although it was the first thing I thought of too). IME, it is used in more of an "allowing something" than in a doing a favor context. – Kevin May 16 '12 at 18:05
  • I think the OP (Miserable Variable) has asked two questions. I also think this is the best answer for the first phrase. – Bobbi Bennett May 16 '12 at 18:13
26

No good deed goes unpunished.

(A phrase I really dislike)

  • 2
    Indeed it is dislikeable, probably because it is absolute. But when used in a sentence -- "I don't want you to feel you are being punished for doing a good deed" -- it seems ok. Thanks. – Miserable Variable May 16 '12 at 17:15
  • 5
    dislike is not a compound that requires a hyphen. – Kaz May 16 '12 at 19:43
  • 3
    No good answer shall go unupvoted +1. – Kris May 17 '12 at 8:25
  • @Kaz, thanks for pointing that out. I had wanted to write a -lot- about how I dislike that phrase, and got distracted. – Bobbi Bennett May 17 '12 at 14:27
10

Another phrase (in addition to those mentioned) could be "biting the hand that feeds".

Here is a literal observation of this phenomenon: my girlfriend was trying to feed a neighbourhood stray cat, and the cat (being rather mean and nasty) scratched and tried to bite my girlfriend's hand.

  • Needs rephrasing -- the 'phenomenon' is not your gf but the cat. Change the word order without changing the meaning. – Kris May 16 '12 at 18:09
  • 1
    I read everything after "phenomenon is" as being the phenomenon and it sounded ok. – Miserable Variable May 16 '12 at 18:11
9

Camel's nose is a phrase to describe the ill-effect that could result when doing a favour.

It is a reference to the famous Arab fable where an Arab offered a camel's head a place in the tent, but the camel slowly entered completely, thereby pushing the Arab himself out.

  • 5
    I don't think this phrase is common enough that it can be used without explanatory text. – Scott McIntyre May 16 '12 at 20:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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