Camel's nose  

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The camel's nose is a metaphor for a situation where the permitting of a small, seemingly innocuous act will open the door for larger, clearly undesirable actions.

Related expressions

There are a number of other metaphors and expressions which refer to small changes leading to chains of events with undesirable or unexpected consequences, differing in nuances.

The original saying goes "Give them an inch, and they'll take an ell."
  • In Chinese culture, the "inch-mile" saying corresponds to the chengyu (four-character expression) délǒng-wàngshǔ (得隴望蜀), which is a quotation from the Book of Later Han about a Chinese general who took over Long (now Gansu) only to pursue further southwards into Shu (now Sichuan). Another more similar corresponding chengyu is dé cùn jìn chǐ (得寸進尺), meaning "Gain an inch and ask for a yard."
  • In Romanian culture, there is the expression "Îi întinzi un deget, îţi ia toată mâna" literally being translated as "you give (reach to, offer, handing over, come to the help of one) one finger, he (the one you give *the finger* to) takes the whole hand. Give a finger, he takes your hand.
  • In Russian culture a similar phrase sounds, literally translated, as "offer him a finger, and he will bite a hand off up to the elbow".
  • In Polish, the "Give him a finger and he'll take the whole arm!" is increasingly replaced with an abbreviated form, and the reminder implicit: "Give him a finger...!"
  • In Finnish, there is the expression Jos antaa pirulle pikkusormen, se vie koko käden ("If you offer the devil [even just] a little finger, it takes the whole hand/arm").
  • In German, there is the expression "Gib jemandem den kleinen Finger, und er nimmt die ganze Hand" ("If you give somebody the little finger, he will take your whole hand").
  • In Dutch, there is the expression "als je hem een vinger geeft, neemt hij de hele hand" ("If you give him a finger, he will take your whole hand").
  • In Portuguese and Spanish, the correspondent to this idiom is "Você dá uma mão, e eles querem o braço inteiro" ("You lend a hand, and they want the whole arm"), and "Uno le da la mano y le agarran el codo" ("you lend a hand, and they grab the elbow").
  • In Greek, a similar expression is: 'Δώσε θάρρος στον χωριάτη να σ'ανέβει στο κρεβάτι' ("Give the peasant freedom, and he will hop on your bed").
  • In Norwegian there is an expression: "En rullende snøball er vanskeligere å stoppe" (A rolling snowball will be harder to stop).
  • This concept was the premise of the children's book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Camel's nose" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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