Does anyone know a way to say ‘nest of vipers’ without saying ‘nest of vipers’?

I was lying in bed this morning, around half six, listening to the dog snore and contemplating getting up early. In the end I decided to stay in bed. I have some of my best ideas in bed; the shower’s quite a good place to find inspiration as well. I think it’s because my brain relaxes and the random thoughts have a chance to bubble up. Either that or I’m only half conscious and my subconscious uses the opportunity to nudge me in a sensible direction. This morning’s lay-in was quite a fruitful one.

Yesterday, or possibly late Tuesday night (the last few days are a bit hazy – I’ve done some overtime at the day job, consequently I’ve been writing late at night and sleeping at odd times), I was having trouble with a passage in my novel. One of the characters tell the others to be careful as they’re living in a nest of vipers. Fair enough description, but I don’t like the phrase ‘nest of vipers’; it’s overused. I wrote a variation on the phrase but I’m not happy with it. As I lay contemplating the dog’s snores this morning something I read last year bubbled up. On of my favourite singers did an interview in which he said that translating phrases from his own language into English helped keep his songs – which are generally love songs – from sounding sappy and cliched.

Brain has been working!

If I try to find an equivalent phrase in another language – something that means the same but is said in a different way – then I’d be able to say what I want without resorting to tired phrasing. I had a look around the internet this evening, trying to find some sort of resource, other than a thesaurus. I had to resort to googling the phrase ‘popular Finnish sayings’. I could have chosen any language but hey, Finnish is as good a choice as any and one of my dear friends is Finnish. Finnish is also one of the few languages from Northern Europe that isn’t closely related to English.

That was actually helpful, because I found this page:

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Category:Proverbs

It has proverbs listed alphabetically from lots of different languages, most with literal translations, English equivalents and then an explanation of the proverbs’ meaning. I think this could be an interesting resource; most likely for browsing and getting ideas rather than directed searching.

There has to be something better. Does anyone know of a book or website that would be helpful?

And I still haven’t managed to find an alternative to nest of vipers for a dangerous or untrustworthy group of people or society.

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2 thoughts on “Does anyone know a way to say ‘nest of vipers’ without saying ‘nest of vipers’?

  1. I know exactly how you feel. I was trying to find something better than, ‘moth to a flame’ in my last one, and could think of nothing. I guess sometimes the classics are so well-used for a reason!

    Good luck with it 🙂

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