Non disturbare il manovratore

King Crimson

Modus in fabula
In Italian we have this colorful idiom, which literally means: do not interfere with what people in power (figuratively il manovratore, the one in the driving seat) are doing and do not obstruct them. The phrase is apparently issued as an intimidating warning to people not toeing the line (on the party line, corporate policies etc.) so that they immediately stop being critical of people in authority; the usually sarcastic delivery of this expression, however, makes it clear that the actual intent of the speaker (or writer) is ridiculing those same people the speaker is seemingly siding with.
I’m not aware of any similar idiomatic expression in English (and could not found anything here on WR) so I thought I would open a thread and ask the forum for some feedback. Here are some examples of this expression in context, to help those interested to better understand its meaning.;)
  • joanvillafane

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    Hi KC - interesting question. Don't disturb the driver - I would interpret this only in the most literal sense. I think I've even seen it on a sign posted in buses.
    But for your definition ("apparently issued as an intimidating warning to people not toeing the line), what comes to mind is the very banal -
    Don't step out of line.
    Go along to get along.
    (and from another thread - Don't rock the boat!)

    I'm interested to see others' ideas.

    edit: one more - Don't ruffle any feathers..



    English - Australian
    I might also add: "know your place!"

    Unfortunately, nothing comes to mind that satisfies the criteria posed by "non disturbare il manovratore", where the speaker directly addresses the power of the "manovratore" directly.

    However, in such a context, using something like "know your place", or the suggestions given by joanvillafane, can allude to ironically allude to archaic social belief systems. So in that roundabout way, you may be able to achieve a similar effect?


    Senior Member
    American English
    From a Jim Croce song:

    You don't tug on Superman's cape
    You don't spit into the wind
    You don't pull the mask off the ol' Lone Ranger
    And you don't mess around with Jim.

    Or one I have heard a lot:

    (Don't try to)/(You can't) fight City Hall.

    King Crimson

    Modus in fabula
    First off thanks everyone for your interesting input. As it often happens it’s difficult to find a perfect match in another language for an idiomatic expression and this case is no exception; however, even though we (still) don’t have a clear winner here I find that the suggestions from Joan and YondCassius are more faithful to the spirit of the OT, while those – very funny – by AB have a slightly different meaning: that you’re going to get hurt if you mess around with the wrong people or that is useless to put up a fight against bureaucracy or government entities.
    Just to give you some more background information let me say that the focus of the Italian idiom is instead political (this can be clearly seen from the examples in context) and is a sort of (mocking, as already noted) order/warning to dissenters to toe the line not only because of the pecking order, social norms etc. but especially because the people in charge know what is best for you / the country / the party etc. (much like the manovratore-driver knows the way, while passengers don’t) and therefore they should not be disturbed by petty comments or criticisms clearly made by persons who are either unimportant or incompetent or disingenuous (pick all that apply). Sort of a “stand aside and let us do our work”.;)
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