A phrase for starting to talk about something unpleasant?

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hildegardluna

New Member
Hungarian
I am looking for an English proverbial phrase describing when someone starts talking about something unpleasant or difficult <-----Finnish phrase removed.-----> Is there something like this? Or do you think "to mention the elephant in the room" is close enough? Thanks in advance :)
 
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  • Wordnip

    Senior Member
    British English
    "the elephant in the room" refers to something which people would rather pretend doesn't exist but this may not fit your context. We talk of 'opening a can of worms' when someone starts to deal with something unpleasant which has been repressed for a time and then leads inexorably to unknown consequences.

    We also talk of 'throwing a/the cat amongst (or among) the pigeons': 'now you've really thrown the cat amongst the pigeons'. I'm sure there are many other idioms which cover this situation such as 'raising a stink' about something but this usually means to make a big fuss over a controversial issue.
     
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    hildegardluna

    New Member
    Hungarian
    Thanks a lot! These suggestions don't sound bad, but after looking them up, I am not sure if they mean the exact same thing I would like. Basically, I was looking for the equivalent of a certain Finnish proverb which is used e.g. in such situations when someone starts openly talking about some difficult subject about which everyone has been thinking, but no one wants to talk about. Your suggestions also imply that doing a certain thing/talking about something will definitely cause troubles or anger, this Finnish proverb doesn't really have this attached meaning (although it's a real possibility that people might get angry if you start talking about unpleasant topics :D). I hope it's a bit clearer what I mean, I find it a bit hard to explain well :)
     

    Wordnip

    Senior Member
    British English
    I tried translating your proverb (before it was deleted) using Google translate but could make little sense of it; something to do with cat and table. We talk of letting the cat out of the bag if someone reveals something which is supposed to have been kept hushed up. Often similar proverbs occur in different languages. Can you give us the gist of yours in English?
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Welcome to the forum, Hildegardluna. :)

    If you mean a phrase you might use to introduce an unpleasant subject in a conversation with someone, we might say, "I hate to bring this up, but . . . " or "I hesitate to mention this, but . . . " and then go on to talk about the thing that's on people's minds but everyone has been avoiding.

    Is that what you mean?
     

    hildegardluna

    New Member
    Hungarian
    Thanks, Parla :) I was rather wondering if there is some kind of proverbial phrase for this. In Finnish there is a proverb describing the situation when someone brings up something unpleasant (literally it could be translated to "lift the cat onto the table" and originates in the act of putting a cat on the table in order to determine its gender). I would like to translate it to English and it would be nice if some proverbial equivalent existed :)
     

    Szkot

    Senior Member
    UK English
    If you want a feline phrase, you could consider 'not pussyfooting around'. It does not directly involve unpleasantness, but could be used when confronting an unpleasant fact which some people would prefer to avoid.
     

    hildegardluna

    New Member
    Hungarian
    Thanks :) It doesn't have to be a feline phrase, however, I'm just looking for a proverb which has the same underlying meaning as the Finnish proverb I described :)
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    There is also broach the subject of. The original metaphor is about opening a barrel, but not all users of the expression know that.

    What kind of unpleasantness does the Finnish proverb refer to? Something taboo, something secret, something offensive, something smelly, ...
     
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