shy bairns get nowt

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Hermann von Kaulbach, Die Schüchterne (The Shy One, 19th–20th century)


Literally “shy children get nothing”, a reference to the shyness of children when making requests.


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shy bairns get nowt

  1. (Tyneside) If you're too shy, or don't ask, you will not get what you want.
    A' forgot te ask 'er fo' me money back!
    Wye, shy bairns get nowt.
    • 1994, Fiona Cooper, A Skyhook in the Midnight Sun, London; New York, N.Y.: Serpent's Tail, →ISBN, page 121:
      Aye, Mary, we heard you. How could we not? Ah well, shy bairns get nowt. Will we let her at the microphone and give me a bit peace?
    • 2007, “Rob [Rob has a Six-year-old Son who was Infected with Cytomegalovirus as a Baby]”, in Jill Harrison, Matthew Henderson, and Rob Leonard, editors, Different Dads: Fathers’ Stories of Parenting Disabled Children, London; Philadelphia, Pa.: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, →ISBN, page 37:
      Ask questions, enquire, and push for more information and care. As the saying goes in the north-east, ‘shy bairns get nowt’! Know your rights and what you are entitled to by pushing and not taking no for an answer.
    • 2011, John Marrin, “Ten Tips on Taking the Lead”, in Leadership for Dummies (For Dummies Series), Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley, →ISBN, page 297:
      An old Geordie saying says: ‘Shy bairns get nowt!’ It literally means ‘shy children get nothing’, but is used to emphasise that people should speak up for themselves. I think that this saying applies to leaders.

Usage notes[edit]

The proverb is used widely in the North East of England, United Kingdom, to encourage children to speak up and not to be too shy. However, it may also be used to imply that an adult is too shy or unassertive.

Alternative forms[edit]