Is there a verb or idiom for "connecting heterogeneous pieces together in a fast and careless way to build something", which would be an antonymous phrase of "careful and systematic construction and integration of parts"?

In my mother tongue, we have an idiom that roughly translates to "sticking/taping pieces together with saliva", which is used in a negative manner. I was wondering if it has an equivalent.


5 Answers 5


The English idiom that immediately comes to mind is “held/put together with spit and baling wire”. This phrase was the subject of a question on English Language & Usage.

  • 1
    I've never heard that idiom myself. This ngram doesn't reveal many uses in English literature, either. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Astralbee
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 11:09
  • Thanks @Astralbee! Given the similarities, it seems the idiom is surviving in other languages... :)
    – arash
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 11:26
  • Looks like "spit and duct tape" is overtaking this phrase in popularity: books.google.com/ngrams/… Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 6:18
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    See also bubble gum and prayers. There seems to be a wide overlap between "spit, bubble gum, baling wire, prayers and duct tape". They often show up in pairs: "Held together with bubblegum and prayers", "... with duct tape and baling wire" etc. Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 13:23
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    I think "spit and prayers" was what I was trying to think of, but any of these permutations would be clear enough to any speaker and seem directly analogous to OP's idiom. Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 13:34

We might say that shoddily made things are 'held together with string'. This seems equivalent to your idiom. See this headline as an example.

If you are looking for a phrasal verb, you could say that something was 'cobbled together', meaning joined roughly or hastily.

  • I have seen 'string and sticking plaster' - 'through the wonder of Zoom, the current situation has revealed the dreadful string and sticking plaster operations of so many law firms'; 'like a Heath Robinson contraption held together with string and sticking plaster'; 'The entire system is held together by string and sticking plaster. Expect things to go wrong more often in the future'. Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 10:54

For "connecting heterogeneous pieces together in a fast and careless way to build something", I think jerry-rigged fits pretty well:

Definition of jerry-rigged
: organized or constructed in a crude or improvised manner

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    In the UK, I think that jury-rigged came first, then jerry-built, and finally they mated and gave birth to jerry-rigged. Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 19:20
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    @MichaelHarvey Supporting citation: merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/…
    – ColleenV
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 19:26

You're slapping a bandaid on it, as in this example from the Dallas Morning News:

Texas is in danger of simply slapping a “Band-Aid” on “the ongoing tragedy” of kids sleeping in Child Protective Services offices if it doesn't take bolder steps, lawyers for plaintiff children in a long-running lawsuit said Monday.

This comes from the expression "band-aid solution":

a temporary solution that does not deal with the cause of a problem:

Tax credits given to students are merely a band-aid solution to the rising cost of getting an education.


I think both of these are mainly used in American English.

  • 1
    I think "slapping a bandaid" successfully conveys the meaning that the solution was hasty and superficial, but fails to convey the meaning that the solution was related to "connecting heterogeneous pieces together".
    – Stef
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 14:15
  • In the UK, where we tend to prefer descriptive names instead of giving free advertising, you'd probably call it a ‘plaster’ or ‘sticking plaster’.
    – gidds
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 18:55
  • @gidds The British have hoovered up some trademarks, or so I've heard via googling :)
    – Laurel
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 19:08

To add to what the others have noted, you can also say that it's held together with spit and a prayer Other very informal ways of expressing this would be that something is jury-rigged or Mickey Moused together.

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