Do not catch your chickens before they are hatched. (Do not

be too optimistic — proverbial advice to those likely to suffer disappointment through miscalculation.) Getting things in the wrong order:

to put the cart before the horse — to do or put things in the wrong order; to reverse the proper order of things

"Well, Charles, I hope we shan't have a crime this

week-end." "Why? Because we've got a detective

in the house? Rather putting the cart before the

horse, aren't you Tolly?" (A. Chr.)

To say "I was lazy because I didn't study" is to

put the cart before the horse. (A. H.)

To read English novels before you have mastered

English grammar is to put the cart before the

horse. (K. H.)

Colloquial phrases to express failure include the following: to fall through — to fail to materialise; to come to nothing;

to fail

We were going into partnership, but the scheme fell through. (D. E. S.)

He made careful plans but they all fell through. (A. H.)

to miss the bus — to fail to seize a vital opportunity

There were several vacancies in the new plant, but Geoffrey missed the bus. (K. H.) While the industry was paralized by the strike, our competitors stepped in and seized our trade, and we found we had missed the bus again. (W. B.)

to be a flop — to be a complete failure, a fiasco

The play was a flop. (W. B.)

The first American attempt to launch an artificial

satellite proved to be a flop. (D. W.)

to go to the wall— to fail; to succumb to superior force; to get the worst of it (Out of the proverb: The weakest goes to the wall.)

In the conflict throughout the house the women

had gone to the wall. (J. G.)

Business is a hard game, and the weak go to the


I played the game for all it was worth. (St.)

to come a cropper— to fail badly or suffer disaster; to fall heavily

He came a cropper in an examination. (A. H.) "Well, all I hope, Mr, Hoopdriver, is that you'll get fine weather, " said Miss Howe. "And not come any nasty croppers." (H. W.)

to take a plough— to fail in an examination

My son wasted his time in pubs and night-clubs; he has taken a plough now. (K. H.)

to fall flat— to fail to have the intended effect; to evoke no favourable reaction or response from an audience (of a speech, performance)

His best jokes all fell flat. (i. e. did not make

anyone laugh) (A. H.)

The scheme fell flat. (i. e. failed completely)

(A. H.)

The new play fell completely flat and was only

weakly applauded. (K. H.)

not tocome off — to fail

When I knew him, he had been a scientist who had not come off, and at the same time an embit­tered bachelor. (C. S.)

Failure to obtain any results or make further progress may be described by the following colloquial phrases:

to draw a blank — to get nothing; to obtain a negative or no result

As regards a link with Mr. Babbington, you have drawn the blank — yes, but you have collected other suggestive information. (A. Chr.)

not to get (someone) anywhere— to obtain no result;

to make no progress

It's not getting us anywhere. —We're not making any


Stop throwing around your recriminations, Lieu­tenant — they'll never get us anywhere. (S. H.) "Don't speak like that to me!" Martin broke out. Then getting back his usual tone he said: "Look, this isn't going to get us anywhere." (C. S.) Carruthers pleaded. "But we don't want that old stuff. It hasn't been getting us anywhere." (S. H.)

A check to progress may be put in this way: a set-back; to have (suffer) a set-back.

I can't really understand why he had this sudden

set-back. (A Chr.)

He was improving, improving very much. Then

for some reason he had a set-back. (A. Chr.)

But in spite of all precautions, he had a set-back.

(D. L.)

She did not shut her eyes to any set-back, and yet

maintained an absolute and unqualified faith

that the cause would triumph in the end. (C. S.)

to get (be) stuck (for)— to be brought to a halt; to make no headway

I'm not satisfied with the way things are going. I don't want them to get stuck and they will get stuck unless we're careful. (C. S.) "Are you stuck so soon?" Erik sat down and si­lently took one of the cigarettes from the desk. "I'm not stuck, " he said in dejection, "I was able to follow everything." (M. W.)

To fail a person in a time of need is colloquially to let him (her) down.

"I tell you Linnet won't let us down!" "I might let

her down". (A. Chr.)

Darling Linnet — you're a real friend! I knew you

were. You wouldn't let me down — ever. "(A.


The girl in the restaurant mentioned a friend — a

friend who, she was very positive, would not let her

down. (A. Chr.)

If my health let me down, I had lost. (C. S.)

I've done my best not to let them down. (C. S.)

Commiseration for a failure may be expressed thus:

Bad luck! Rotten luck! Hard lines! Better luck next time:

Your luck was cut.

"Bad luck!" exclaimed Ronnie Owen before he knew he had spoken. (B. R.) "Rotten luck, isn't it?" "Rotten." (S. M.)

"Oh, dear, that was hard lines, " said Miss Moss, trying to appear indifferent.(K.. M.) He's won again. My luck is definitely out to­night. (W. B.)

Some proverbial comments:

A miss is asgood as a mile.(A failure is still a failure even

though it came near to success.)

"If it hadn't been that the revolver wasn't cocked, you'd be lying dead there now." Mr. Ledbetter said nothing but he felt that the room was swaying. "A miss is as good as a mile. It's lucky for both of us it wasn't". (H. W.)

It is no use crying over spilt milk.(When we have made mistakes through carelessness, or suffered loss that cannot be recovered, we should not waste our time weeping

or regretting what has happened, but should make the best of it and be more careful in the future.)

"Oh, dear me!" exclaimed Carrie. Then she settled back with a sigh. "There's no use crying over spilt milk, " she said. "It's too late." (Th. D.)

Every dog has his day.(Neither success nor failure is perma­nent, even the most wretched person can expect at least one day of good fortune in his life.)

Well, every dog has his clay; and I have had mine: I cannot complain. (B. Sh.)


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