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Give a thief enough rope and he’ll hang himself

If you give a bad person enough opportunity he will bring about his own downfall.

There is a play on words in the proverb, for ‘rope’ has tow meanings: (a) a length of stout cordage as used for hanging, which was a penalty of theft in olden days; and (b) liberty of action. We can appreciate the second meaning when we consider a tethered goat, which a long rope allows to feed on a larger area of grass than does a short one, Hence we can reword the old proverb thus: ‘Give a thief enough chances to steal and he will become so overconfident that he will get himself into jail.’

Figuratively the proverb can be used as follows:

‘That new member,’ said the secretary of the Golf Club, ‘has already offended several other members with his rudeness. We can’t very well ask him to resign so soon, can we?’

‘I suggest letting things take their course,’ was the reply. ‘Give him enough rope and he’ll hang himself. When he’s offended the whole Club and nobody will play with him, he’ll have to resign.’