In Czech, we say something is a "shout in the dark" when you do something without expecting it to fulfill the purpose (usually, it's used when someone is pushing for a change and gets no response). Is there an English equivalent? And is there an idiom in English which uses a similar metaphore?

I know there's "shot in the dark" in English, that's not what I mean :)

  • Can you elaborate on what you mean by "do it for the act itself"? Do you mean that you do it because you're willing to take a chance it might work, or that it's something heroic and noble, worth doing even if it doesn't yield the result you want?
    – Andrew
    Oct 14, 2019 at 21:52
  • @Andrew You just don't expect it to work. I just realized it's usually connected to an unrealistically looking struggle for a push for a some change. The idiom works with the sense of no response. I'll edit it in the question.
    – Probably
    Oct 14, 2019 at 22:00

4 Answers 4


I might add:

Bark at the moon

Basically like talking to the wall, making noise but with no hope of anything happening.

  • Thanks! This is what I was looking for.
    – Probably
    Oct 15, 2019 at 9:05

I immediately thought of tilting at windmills:

From Wikipedia:

Tilting at windmills is an English idiom that means attacking imaginary enemies. The expression is derived from Don Quixote, and the word "tilt" in this context comes from jousting.

The phrase is sometimes used to describe either confrontations where adversaries are incorrectly perceived, or courses of action that are based on misinterpreted or misapplied heroic, romantic, or idealistic justifications. It may also connote an importune, unfounded, and vain effort against adversaries real or imagined.

In other words, if you are tilting at windmills you are putting in a lot of effort toward something either misguided or ineffectual. In other words, it's probably not going to do you any good. (And it might also make you look foolish.)

  • I think "Tilting at windmills" is for "attacking the wrong enemy", with the additional connotation that such attacks are unlikely to cause significant damage. I'm unsure how well it applies to the original expression. We need more information.
    – Andrew
    Oct 14, 2019 at 21:51

The first thing I thought of was “to throw {mud at/against} the wall (and see what sticks)”. I don't think it's a good fit with the updates to the question - I'll have to give it more thought.

It usually means you’re trying a lot of different approaches without being very discerning because it would take more time to figure out if it’s going to work than to just try it. There is a little more detail and some related phrases in What does 'what sticks' mean?

  • I think "A shot in the dark" is a very close parallel to the original expression. "Throw mud against the wall, etc." seems more related to trying something at random.
    – Andrew
    Oct 14, 2019 at 21:46
  • @Andrew I missed the question saying that "shot in the dark" was known and not what they're looking for so I removed it. There's something on the tip of my brain, like "shouting into the wind" but not that exactly...
    – ColleenV
    Oct 14, 2019 at 22:15

Maybe beating your head against a brick wall, which has the connotation that you are wasting your time trying to do something that is hopeless or impossible.

The other thing that comes to mind is a Sisyphean task, a repetitive task that will never be successful.

I haven't heard anything similar to "shout in the dark"--it seems like a mixed metaphor, so maybe you could get a similar effect by combining some standard metaphors.

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