What these sentences mean and when can we use them

  1. Smack went the whip
  2. It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good
  3. Too many cooks spoil the broth

I have never heard No. 1.
I know and understand No. 2, but I absolutely cannot explain it.
No. 3 means that too many decision-makers on a project ruin the results.


1 – I do not believe it is even a saying/proverb. It just means that the whip made a loud noise.
2 – I would explain it like this:
Any bad thing can have a good side to it / No problem is that bad that it does not bring some kind of advantage to someone

(Would you say that is close, Jamie ?)

3 – I agree with Jamie. Also, I would add a slightly different meaning:
When too many people get involved in doing one and same thing, it is most likely that that thing will not be done well.


“Its an ill wind that blows nobody any good” means that even the worst event (an ill wind–like a tornado, for example) brings some good to somebody (for example, contractors that rebuild houses get jobs after a tornado!). The proverb can be applied in non-wind situations as well: If I am fired from my job (my “ill wind”), someone will be hired to replace me (and this will be good for them)
‘Nobody any good’ means quite simply ‘does not do something good to somebody’ - the nobody + any being a double negative makes the sentence positive.

Compare this with a similar proverb, with a different meaning:
“It’s an ill wind that blows no good.” (Not “nobody”) In other words, the wind (circumstance) brings NO good at all.

Hi Beeesneees,

I actually found the saying ‘‘It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good’’ in my dictionary. Next to it I could read the Romanian saying that is considered equivalent to the English one. Had I tried to translate it literally, it wouldn’t have made any sense to anyone. Therefore, I tried to explain it in my own words.

What I wanted to say is that according to my dictionary ‘‘It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good’’ and ‘‘It’s an ill wind that blows no good’’ have the same meaning. Now that I have read your explanations I can see that is not true.

Looks like my dictionary is deceiving/deceptive, doesn’t it? :slight_smile:

Many thanks

It’s a deceptive sort of saying Cristina. The explanations I’ve given make sense to me, and that is how I’ve always viewed them, but there are no guarantees that those are the intended meanings!

Hi Beeesneees,

I am not questioning your explanations, they absolutely make sense to me too.
My only issue is that my dictionary treats the two English sayings (’‘It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good’’ and ‘‘It’s an ill wind that blows no good’’) as equivalents. This made me wonder whether there are other things in it that are not exactly true.
I’ll figure it out. :slight_smile: