Posted by R. Berg on November 23, 2001

In Reply to: paint the Devil on the wall posted by ESC on November 22, 2001

: : : : : Is there such an expression in the English language? Someone said it means making things worse than they are, i.e. the opposite of looking on the bright side. I have a feeling that it's a word-by-word translation of n idiom in a foreign language, however.

: : : : I have never heard that phrase and can't find it in any of my references. Anyone heard of it? It sounds like "painting things blacker than they are" or perhaps "hanging crepe" (the custom after a death).

: : :
: : : I found one quote which says;
: : : Do not paint the devil on the wall because it may come off the wall.
: : : One sourse claims that the phrase is Hungarian and I have found another claiming that it is a Latvian saying.
: : : Most instances of its use seem to be in German, Russian and Baltic texts.

: : : It also appears in the song Lyrics of the heavy metal band Megadeth and Rage.

: : So maybe it means don't imagine (or spread tales of) evil because your fantasies may come to life?

: Speak of the devil and he will appear.

Or maybe it cautions against slippery slopes, like these lyrics from "Don't Let the Devil Ride" by the Gospel Hummingbirds:

Don't let the devil ride,
Don't let the devil ride.
If you let him ride,
He might want to drive,
Don't let the devil ride.

Don't let the devil drive,
Don't let the devil drive.
If you let him drive,
He'll throw you outside,
Don't let the devil drive.