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Sometimes It Is Better 'To Let Sleeping Dogs Lie'

    2022-1-22

    And now, Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English.

    Sometimes the best way to deal with a problem is to face it head on. But sometimes … it is not. In some cases, it can be a good idea to give a problem or a difficult situation time and space.

    Sometimes we just don’t want to deal with it – whatever “it” is. So, we ignore a situation and act as if the problem does not exist.

    In this March 31, 2021, Champ, President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden's dog, is seen on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP)
    In this March 31, 2021, Champ, President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden's dog, is seen on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP)

    And of course, we have an expression just for that! Actually, we have a couple. But the first one we will talk about is this: to let sleeping dogs lie.

    “To let sleeping dogs lie” means to do nothing in a situation. Sometimes taking action can make things worse. Sometimes it is best to “leave well enough alone” and to not “stir up trouble” – in some cases, more trouble. That is when we let sleeping dogs lie.

    There are other expressions that have a similar meaning.

    When we “let nature take its course” we do not interfere. We sit back and let events unfold. To let something unfold means to permit it to happen naturally.

    Now, turning a blind eye to something is different. This is when you choose to ignore something. Usually it is something bad that someone else has done. In this case, you also choose to do nothing.

    If you turn a blind eye to something you stand by and let it happen. For example, when teachers turn a blind eye to bullying in the classroom, really bad things can happen.

    Sometimes turning a blind eye, though, is helpful. For example, if your friend has a bad habit and you choose to ignore it -- you are turning a blind eye to their bad habit.

    Now, let’s listen in on two friends as they use some of these expressions.

    A: Hey, do you have a minute? I really need to talk to someone.

    B: Sure. What’s wrong?

    A: My co-worker Jess is really mad at me.

    B: What did you do?

    A: Well, he didn’t get a promotion. So, at a work gathering recently, I told his boss that she made a mistake...

    B: Oh no …

    A: … and that she should she give him the promotion.

    B: Oh boy. That is a big no-no! You should never interfere in someone’s work-life!

    A: I know. I know. Now, I feel like I should call his boss and apologize.

    B: You definitely should NOT do that.

    A: But I made a mistake. I want to fix it.

    B: That will not fix anything. You need to let sleeping dogs lie.

    A: A phone call is not a big deal.

    B: In this case … it is. Jess’s boss most likely has forgotten your comment. But if you call her, it will only stir up more trouble!

    A: I guess you’re right. But it’s really hard to not do something.

    B: Think of it this way. If you meddle again, you could really make things worse for Jess. And then he may never talk to you again.

    A: You’re right. I won’t call. Maybe I’ll send her a card.

    B: You’re hopeless.

    And that’s all the time we have for this Words and Their Stories. Until next time … I’m Anna Matteo.

    Anna Matteo wrote this for VOA Learning English.

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    Words in This Story

    ignore v. to refuse to take notice of

    stir upphrasal verb to cause (something, usually something bad or unpleasant) to happen

    interfere v. to enter into or take a part in the concerns of others

    turn a blind eye expression pretend not to notice

    bullyv. to frighten, hurt, or threaten (a smaller or weaker person) : to act like a bully toward (someone)

    habit n. a way of acting or doing that has become fixed by being repeated often

    promotion n. the act of moving someone to a higher or more important position or rank in an organization

    apologize v. to express regret for something done or said

    meddle v. to change or handle something in a way that is unwanted or harmful