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Q: Negative expressions ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: Negative expressions
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: dtnl42-ga
List Price: $40.00
Posted: 02 May 2005 03:06 PDT
Expires: 01 Jun 2005 03:06 PDT
Question ID: 516725
I need a list of negative expressions similar to "keep your feet on
the gorund" and "get your head out of the clouds" - no need for
sources etc. I just need a straight list of as many as possible
Subject: Re: Negative expressions
Answered By: angy-ga on 03 May 2005 02:27 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi !

What an interesting question ! 

I've tried to go for phrases and expressions that are negative for
adult or children alike. I see Pink Freud has given you an excellent
answer about the effect of negative criticism on children, so
generally I won't go there, though there is an interesting article on
schools moving to prevent put-downs at:

Here are some phrases which are guaranteed put-downs in the same
spirit as the phrases you quote - putting somebody off doing something
they are planning to do, or belittling their ambitions to other

The first two are courtesy of my grandmother. In some cases, how it is said is all.

Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever.

You're so sharp you should be in the knifebox.

Just as well she's so clever, because of course she'll never marry.

Get real !

Come down to earth

Be realistic

You're (just) a dreamer

Stop day-dreaming

That's nothing but a pipe-dream

Take a good look at yourself

You've got to live in the real world.

Don't push the boat out too far.

Don't go out on a limb over that.

That's just a flight of fancy.

Come down off the mountain-top / out of the stratosphere.

Take a look at yourself.

You're away with the pixies.

You've no room to talk.

Who do you think you are ?

You don't want to do that

That's not very practical.

What do you think you're doing ?

She thinks she's the Queen (high-up celebrity of choice).

Call that music / art / clever.

Life wasn't meant to be easy. (Malcolm Fraser). 

Nothing in life is free. 

Face it , you're just ....

My uncle/cousin/friend tried that, and it didn't work in Boston etc.

You'll never make anything of yourself unless....

Traditional proverbs are another source of negative sayings. These are culled from:

These are the expressions that most parallel your examples :

A fool and his money are soon parted.

All good things must come to an end.

All that glitters is not gold.

As soon as man is born he begins to die. 

Beauty is only skin-deep.

Beggars can't be choosers.

Easier said than done.

Every man is his own worst enemy.

Fear is stronger than love.

It never rains, but it pours.

Jack of all trades, master of none.

No-one's indispensable.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall

There's no fool like an old fool.

There's one law for the rich, and another for the poor

They that dance must pay the fiddler. (He who pays the piper calls the tune.)

Trust is the mother of deceit.
contributes some more

On the site these are helpfully explained, the source given where
known, and they are translated into Swedish ! I've put them into
alphabetical order.

Close but no cigar 

Cut one´s coat according to one´s cloth

Drift with the tide

Fizzle out / come to nothing

Have a screw loose

Ill weed grows apace

Pride goes before a fall

Swallow something hook, line and sinker 

Take something with a pinch of salt 

More obvious negative expressions include: 

Anything that goes "You're stupid/silly/daft". 
Anything that goes "Don't be stupid/silly/daft."

Re-tard. (Fatso, etc etc.)

Just look at your hair / fingernails / teeth !!!

What have you done to your hair / fingernails / teeth !

Where did you get that ?

I've seen bigger bananas. (I'm told this works well with the would-be

Only tarts wear high heels / fishnet stockings / whatever is
disapproved of. (Male variations may imply homosexuality eg: "that's a
bit pouffy" .)

That's your problem.

Shut up !  

It's nothing to do with you.

You'll never amount to anything.

You're a pain.

All variations on: "He's a few shillings short of a quid"
(sandwiches/picnic, brick/outhouse etc.)

He's no Einstein.

She's no beauty queen. (Interesting cultural differentiation in those two !)

It's your fault that I ......

Look what you made me do !

Murphy's law is a way of life.

Life's a bitch, and then you die.

Live fast, die young..

More general negative expressions from are below.

Note that some of these are not necessarily negative, it's just they
never seem to be used in any other context. "As you make your bed, so
you must lie in it" is one such example.

A bad penny always turns up.

As you make your bed, so must you lie in it.

As you sow, so shall you reap.

Ask no questions and hear no lies.

Bad news travels fast.

Birds of a feather flock together.

Curiosity killed the cat.

Dead men have no friends.

Dead men tell no tales.

Give him an inch and he'll take a yard. (an ell).

Mind your own business.

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Spare the rod and spoil the child..

Speak when you're spoken to.

There's no smoke without fire.

Two is company, three is a crowd.

You can't please everyone.

You can't take it with you when you go.

You don't get something for nothing.

And from:

A miss is as good as a mile

A wolf in sheep´s clothing

Add insult to injury

Appearances are deceptive

Be tarred with the same brush

Be a thorn in somebody´s side

Catch somebody red-handed

Get a dose of one´s own medicine

Have to eat humble pie

In for a penny, in for a pound

Not for all the tea in China 

Out of the frying-pan into the fire

Put a spoke in somebody´s wheel

Rub salt into somebody´s wounds
Strain at a gnat and swallow a camel 

Talk about the devil

Throw in the towel

You cannot teach an old dog new tricks

Brain Candy have a great Insults Collection at:

These are not in common use, but are funny; eg"

"Has the IQ of lint."


"Talk is cheap, but so are you."

There are more at:

but this time as well as the made-up insults, they include gems such as:

"There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.- Henry Kissinger"

"A fellow with the inventiveness of Albert Einstein, but with the
attention span of Daffy Duck. - Tom Shale on Robin Williams"


"He had the compassion of an icicle and the generosity of a
pawnbroker.- S J Perelman on Groucho Marx"

I hope there are a few here that you haven't come across before, and
that the ordering is helpful.

If I come across any more I'll add them.

Search strategy:

Personal observation.
"Proverbs and sayings".
"negative expressions" - which mostly yielded linguistic results.

Clarification of Answer by angy-ga on 03 May 2005 21:09 PDT
I missed:

"He's bitten off more than he can chew."

Also, in Australia, we refer to "tall poppy syndrome" - meaning it's
the tall poppies that get their heads cut off.
dtnl42-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: Negative expressions
From: myoarin-ga on 03 May 2005 08:03 PDT
You can tell him by the company he keeps.  (= Birds of a feather...)

You really put your foot in it!  (mouth or dog-sh..)

Get your foot out of your mouth.

You always say that.

That's just what you think.

Go tell it to the marines.  (pre- contemporary WW I or II)
   (Story goes with that, that an allied POW was forced to tell on a
German propaganda broadcast how well POWs were being treated, and
finished his bit by adding:  "and if you don't believe me, just go and
tell..."  The Germans are said to have appreciated his forceful
underlining of the varacity of his remarks.)

Ah, get off!

And what are you going to do for an encore after that?

You must still be wet behind the ears.

If you're all that smart, why did you ask?

Like a bull in a china shop

Get down off your high horse.

You don't know nuttin'!

Does your mother still have to change your diapers?

Your slip is showing.  (Anybody remember the last time they saw a woman younger 
                         than 70 wearing a slip?  What's that?)
Subject: Re: Negative expressions
From: pinkfreud-ga on 03 May 2005 09:17 PDT
Here are some proverbs which sound good at first, but which tend to
discourage imagination, initiative, and reaching beyond one's grasp:

"Look before you leap."  
"Better safe than sorry.
"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."
"Don't put all your eggs in one basket."
"Don't count your chickens until they hatch."
"If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride."
"You can't teach an old dog new tricks."
"Curiosity killed the cat."
"The nail that stands out gets hammered down."
"What will be, will be."
"Ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no lies."
"Good fences make good neighbors."
"A hedge between keeps friendship green."
"Don't beat a dead horse."
"If you've seen one, you've seen them all."
"There's no fool like an old fool."
"Don't change horses in midstream."
"A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains."
Subject: Re: Negative expressions
From: myoarin-ga on 04 May 2005 03:30 PDT
Yeah, Pinkfreud-ga, all those wise things people tell one (not you or
me, of course) afterwards.

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