No harm, no foul

Discussion in 'English Only' started by danielxu85, Jun 12, 2008.

  1. danielxu85 Senior Member

    Mandarin Chinese
    I am not sure about the origin of this metaphor. Does it mean when no damage is inflicted, there is no problem? Could you provide me with a context in which you would recommend me to use it?

    Is it appropriate for me to say "During the spelling bee, someone whispered the spelling of 'epicurean' to Mary, but since it was not tested, no harm, no foul"?
  2. cropje_jnr

    cropje_jnr Senior Member

    Canberra, Australia
    English - Australia
    See explanation of roots and meaning here.
  3. Harry Batt

    Harry Batt Senior Member

    USA English
    It is my understanding of this old metaphor that it grew out of the law of torts. As far back as 1598 Spenser made a comment about no fault in Faery Queen. Tort law grew into the doctrine that there must be fault in order to collect damages if there is a civil wrong or hurt done to someone. Without injury caused by a fault there could no damages awarded. Now, in time the concept of no-fault compensation became accepted; for example no-fault automobile insurance. Your Spelling bee example would be a proper example.

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