Is there any short idiomatic phrase in British English for encouraging people to not be annoyingly deviant in talk/behaviour and instead talk/act more like people in general?

Also, the context that I am going to use the phrase in requires that it includes a direct reference to 'common people', 'ordinary folk' (or something synonymous in 1-2 words).

My starting point is a Swedish phrase that translated verbatim would be: 'be like folk'. My assumption is that British English requires something more specific to make sense. Or, would 'be like folk', 'be like others', stated as demands, suffice to convey about the same (reproachful) meaning of encouraging a normal behaviour?

Imagine, for instance, that a character gives another character a most scathing review: 'I'm adamant that you need plenty of therapy until you learn to be like'... Yes, like what? Would "people" suffice? Or, would it at least have to be "common people"/"regular people"/ "normal people"/"ordinary folks", or anything similar, to be correctly understood by British English speakers?

  • I don't know if it fits your context, or if it is particularly British, but "going off the rails" is a way to describe someone whose behavior is out of control or unacceptable. Her oldest son went off the rails as soon as he moved out, but the youngest child grew up to be a model citizen.
    – ColleenV
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 13:26
  • It doesn't fit. But thanks, ColleenV. I'm going to add a clarification of context, to be more specific about what I need to know, after Michael's comment below.
    – Swenglish
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 14:01
  • Can you make the meaning of "annoyingly deviant" clearer? Commented May 6, 2020 at 18:44
  • It can be any behaviour leading someone to demand - or plead for - a better behaviour (a highly subjective matter). For instance, the annoyance could possibly just be an innocently pranking kid getting on an adult's nerves.
    – Swenglish
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 21:09
  • Now, Michael (or anyone else), you could help me by telling me: could in any case an idiomatically talking, admonishing Brit simply say: 'Try to be like folk'. Or would idiomatic BE at least require a preceding adjective - thus instead, possibly: 'Try to be/act like ordinary folk', 'Try to be/act like common people', or 'Try to be/act like regular people'. Or would even that be considered non-idiomatic? If so, what would be the simplest way to correctly communicate the same meaning as in those examples?
    – Swenglish
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 21:10

4 Answers 4


"I'm adamant that you need plenty of therapy until you learn to be like ..."

Perhaps "a normal human being" or "a decent human being", "a decent member of society". (And perhaps either delete "like" or replace it with "more like".)


How about just:

Behave normally

Or something like:

Have some common sense

For an idiom, you can use:

Stop behaving like animals

  • "Behave normally" may actually work quite well in the context. However, as I wrote, I am primarily searching for a phrase that makes a direct reference to 'common people', or something similar.
    – Swenglish
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 11:56
  • 1
    @Swenglish Behave like normal people?
    – user109564
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 11:57
  • Thanks, Daniil. To clarify: I am looking for an idiom or something close to. A typical phrase, if there is any.
    – Swenglish
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 12:03
  • @Swenglish Maybe stop behaving like animals?
    – user109564
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 12:07
  • 1
    Your examples are worryingly like the meaning of völkisch. Commented May 6, 2020 at 15:24

A simple “behave yourself/yourselves” would suffice and be idiomatic. This can be said sternly as a correction or just as a pre-warning. It’s a basic reminder than one is (or will be) in polite society.

You might also try:

Have some decorum.

This might sound a little upper class or over the top (too proper), but for that reason can also be used casually as a more tongue-in-cheek comment (this might elicit a giggle but be taken seriously at the same time, especially if the upper class quality is affected/put on).


For the example you gave in the comments, generally I think you’d hear something like:

Don’t be precious.

Precious here implies he believes himself to be special or a special case. The phrase above reminds him, “You’re just like everyone else (and should therefore act like them).”

If this doesn’t quite fit, please provide another example.

One other phrase you hear a lot which might apply is:

When in Rome...

The full phrase is, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” It means that in a particular situation, one should look to do whatever “normal people” (in that context) do, and drop their own customs and ideas.

  • Thanks Chris. The problem I have with that is that it is a bit... yes, too formal. Also, the Swedish expression is much based on subtext, why I am looking for something less on the nose. Moreover, the phrase is to be used in a piece of fiction and has to fit with the context. As it looks for now, it will work best if the phrase refers to 'common people', 'ordinary folks', something like that (subtext: 'common behaviour', 'ordinary behaviour')..
    – Swenglish
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 21:15
  • When you say “normal people”, are you saying, in a sense, the majority, and not the best? I.e. you’re asking people to try to blend in?
    – Chris Mack
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 22:29
  • Could you give an example behaviour, or a behavioural adjustment that might be made?
    – Chris Mack
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 22:30
  • A character is threathened with therapy until he learns to be 'like people' (or someting more idiomatically correct - perhaps 'like common people'?) and which, yes, demands of the character that he learns to blend in.
    – Swenglish
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 23:33
  • Please check my updated answer.
    – Chris Mack
    Commented May 7, 2020 at 0:35

"I'm adamant that you need plenty of therapy until you learn to" toe the line.

Wikipedia states:

"Toe the line" is an idiomatic expression meaning either to conform to a rule or standard, or to stand poised at the starting line in a footrace.

Its modern-day use includes [...] the context of behavior where the miscreant is expected to "toe the line."

I think this fits your context pretty well, because it captures the notion of common people (or ordinary soldiers) being expected to behave in a certain way.

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