I'm looking for an analogy for my repeated attempts to revive interest in a project. The phrase beating a dead horse almost fits the bill, but a dead horse refers to a subject that is no longer relevant or useful, and this project is both relevant and useful, it's just considered a low priority.

Without giving the subject a negative label, is there an analogy I can use to express my persistence and frustration?


8 Answers 8


Dubs, it sounds like you still believe in the project and are trying to breathe-life back into your interest group. I agree the 'beating a dead horse' phrase does not convey your feeling, and I wouldn't think the analogous terms mentioned would either. I can't think of something exactly, but I would say something like: 1) 'at the risk of sounding like a nag'... 2) there is an expression about driving a nail into a wall...'I hate to drive this nail into the wall, but can we arrange to meet again...'. You may not like this latter phrase because it implies over doing something. Good luck.


Stop beating banging your head against a wall, if you wish to avoid unsavoury animal-cruelty based clichés.

I think you were almost there since the usual form of the cliché in your question is flogging a dead horse.

Alternatively, you may have tired of trying to push water uphill.

Perhaps the task is Sisyphean?

Actually a good "analogy for [your] repeated attempts to revive interest in a project" is like trying to write a grammatical and accurate answer in English.stackexchange.com".

  • Actually, beating a dead horse graphs a bit higher than flogging on Ngrams ever since 1985 or so. It's certainly the form I've heard.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 15:00
  • @Danielδ: Ah, perhaps it varies regionally. Answer amended. Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 15:01
  • FWIW, I'm more familiar with "flogging a dead horse". I'm also more accustomed to "banging" rather than "beating" my head against a wall :) "Banging my head against a wall"/"Banging my head against a brick wall" appears to suit the OP's requirements admirably. Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 15:21
  • @coleopterist: Whatever it takes, I guess! ;-)
    – Dubs
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 15:47
  • @Dubs Apparently this is a opportune moment for banging your head against a RedGrittyBrick™ wall. :)
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 16:07

Perhaps you could borrow a page (line) out of the forensics/criminology phrasebook and call your project a "cold case".

Cold Case
A crime that has remained unsolved for a long period of time, has no new evidence, and has been deemed a low priority by its original investigating agency or department.

That is to say, your project has been put on hold indefinitely but isn't (at least as far as you're concerned) quite dead yet.

Of course that phrase doesn't directly describe your efforts to "revive" the cold case (so take this answer with a grain of salt), but it indirectly suggests that someone passionate about it with "evidence" of its continued or renewed relevance could well do so. And you could use this analogy to expand the phrase to something like:

It's like trying to revive a cold case.

The implied frustration involved with this process should be evident to most readers who know what a cold case is.


OP could always consider making use of ELU terminology - you get a Necromancer badge for answering a question more than 60 days later with score of 5 or more, which surely implies skill in "raising the dead [horse]", rather than beating/flogging it.

Then there's the Judeo-Christian myth of Lazarus, raised from the dead by Christ. OP could say he's promoting a Lazarean project - which through faith, can and will live again.

I might opt for saying the project is an exercise in phoenicity, defined by OED as the quality or condition of being a phoenix. The literal meaning of which is the mythical bird that burnt itself to ashes on a funeral pile of aromatic twigs ignited by the sun and fanned by its own wings, only to emerge from its ashes with renewed youth, and live through another cycle of years.

It's worth noting dictionary.com's definition 4 for phoenix - a person or thing that has become renewed or restored after suffering calamity or apparent annihilation.


Not quite equal would be "You can't get blood from a stone.", which could be used to imply that the topic was wrung out and that there's nothing more to be gained by pursuing that avenue.


The term perseverative can be used to indicate that the actor is continuing on his/her task much longer than is usually expected (and often longer than wished) by observers or objects of the action.

This is not a figurative analogy, but may express what you are seeking.


How about “reviving” or “rejuvenating” your project?


If you're looking for another animal idiom:

You really seem have a bee in your bonnet about this project. You're like a dog with a bone. Perhaps you have a monkey on your back?

  • 1
    Hold your horses now! I'm not just champing at the bit for no reason. I've worked like a horse on this project and am not about to put it out to pasture just yet!
    – Dubs
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 16:01

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