a bear's favour

nikkieli

Senior Member
Bulgaria, Bulgarian
Hi, friends,
another brain-twister:
Suppose you,ve got a bosom friend who is hopeless at maths. You wish he could do better, but no matter how hard you try to help him, he keeps getting poor grades. All you can do is to write his homework and let him copy from you in class.
In my country we call this kind of favour a 'bear's favour' (origin unclear). The meaning can be brought to the following: you help somebody out of pure pity for them, knowing that they won't do anything to improve the situation; you just can't help yourself, being well aware of the fact that you are leading them to no good.
Do you have an idiom for the same kind of favour?
Thank you
 
  • Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    I will have to give this more thought but the nearest terms that spring to mind are:
    Monkey see monkey do - learning by copying
    and:
    Parrot fashion - speaking the words without understanding

    However, both these point to the learner not the teacher and something has been learned even if not understood.
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    It exists in Danish in a slightly different meaning:

    You offer to write your friend's paper and it turns out worse than he could have written it himself.

    Or if your pet grizzly sees a mosquito landing on your face - to prevent it from stinging he slaps you in the face to kill it - not very gently, though. (How should he ... he is a bear.)
    That would definitely be a bear's favor in a double sense.
     

    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    Also in Swedish we have the concept of a bear's favour, and I think Sepia's pet grizzly illustrates perfectly what the connotation is: the intentions were good but the plan backfired and the result ended up being counterproductive.

    My dictionaries simply translate it as doing somebody a disservice, but I'm not convinced it's the same, i.e. are the good intentions implied in this expression?

    I think the whole idea comes from the bear being seen as clumsy but benign, like the Disney version of Baloo in the Djungle Book.

    /Wilma
     

    Franzi

    Senior Member
    (San Francisco) English
    My dictionaries simply translate it as doing somebody a disservice, but I'm not convinced it's the same, i.e. are the good intentions implied in this expression?
    No, I don't think that expression implies either good or bad intentions.

    I can't think of a simple idiom in English that covers the meaning being discussed, but you could say something like "he's well-intentioned but misguided" or "his misguided attempt to help just made the situation worse".
     

    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    No, I don't think that expression implies either good or bad intentions.

    I can't think of a simple idiom in English that covers the meaning being discussed, but you could say something like "he's well-intentioned but misguided" or "his misguided attempt to help just made the situation worse".
    Could a service or favour backfire, i.e. could you say that the well-intentioned favour backfired?

    /Wilma
     

    Franzi

    Senior Member
    (San Francisco) English
    Could a service or favour backfire, i.e. could you say that the well-intentioned favour backfired?
    Yes, you could say that. I think it would be more common to say something like "He meant so well!" (implying that his intentions don't match the outcome) or to use the word 'misguided', but your example is possible too. Since there isn't a standard idiom for this, you could say it a lot of different ways.
     

    johndot

    Senior Member
    English - England
    To do something “out of misplaced/misguided loyalty/friendship” is a common enough expression, and about the nearest I can get.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top