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Suppose there is a contract that states, I need to give 14 days' notice. But I want to give 13 days' notice, and I assume that the other person that contract affects is going to be fine with that. But then a third party says "hang on I though you needed to give more notice! We need to cancel our holiday!"

In Norwegian I could say:

Det er vel ikke så nøye. (literally, "It is not so rigid")

meaning that I think that although it's technically a breach of contract, nobody is going to care enough to make a deal out of it, for the sake of one day.

Or let's say I am making a curry. The recipe calls for two teaspoons of chilli powder, but my preference is for spicy food so I use three. Then someone sees what I am doing and just reminds me what the recipe says. So I tell the guy

Er dèt så nøye da? (literally, "Is that so rigid then?").

The implication is, that I think the recipe isn't gospel. So I can do what I like.

It doesn't need to be about contracts or laws, but could something like a recipe, that I don't heed because I like my food spicier or creamier or whatever. But it's usually a response to someone who's basically saying something like

  • "Hang on, the contract says this so you must do that."

  • "Hang on, you had to put exactly two teaspoons of chilli in that curry"

  • "Hang on, it would be wise to disconnect the electricity before you poke a piece of metal into that wiring"

  • "Hang on, the teacher said you needed to wait before opening the envelopes until he has finished handed them all out."

  • "Hang on, I'm sure you're breaking some law or other by ramming your van into that cow."

And you want to answer that you choose not submit because you trust others to be lenient, which means it's a point of flexibility.

Is there an English language equivalent to "det er vel ikke så nøye" that works in these cases?

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I think this idiom might fit:

There's no hard-and-fast rule about X.

Hard-and-fast means strongly binding; not to be set aside or violated.

However, in the context of contracts and in consideration of leniency, I can't think of one.

  • Can you say of a rule, that it is hard-and-fast? Or, this rule is harder-and-faster than that rule? – Wilson May 16 at 9:14
  • I haven't encountered nor used "harder-and-faster" in such context. I guess there's no hard-and-fast rule about it, though I'm dubious if it could be taken as a wordplay or a pun. – shin May 16 at 9:16
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One common idiom is to say, It's not written in stone.

Obviously, if you have a rule that's literally carved into stone, it's difficult to amend. Also, it's likely that this idiom is based on the Biblical story of Moses revealing the Ten Commandments written on stone tablets, so this idiom is the equivalent of saying, "It's not a commandment directly from God Himself."

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To say it's not so rigid you can say: "You do not need to take this literally."

Tied up. You will hear native English speakers using the phrasal verb [tied up] all the time! You can’t take this literally, this has nothing to do with actually being tied up! (Canlearnenglish.com)

  • Would you really say that about a contract or the law of the land? – Wilson May 17 at 6:32
  • I updated my answer. – Jan May 17 at 7:47

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