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No harm no foul

No harm no foul is a phrase that means even though one has committed a mistake or participated in misconduct or a transgression, one should be excused because nothing and no one has come to harm. The phrase no harm no foul is an American phrase that comes from the game of basketball. In basketball, if a player commits a transgression against the rules that doesn’t have an effect on the outcome of the game, the referee should not call a foul against that player.  The term was first described in the Hartford Courant newspaper in 1956, within ten years no harm no foul was applied to situations outside the sport of basketball. By the early 1970s the term no harm no foul was being applied to legal situations. It is assumed that the phrase no harm no foul is derived from the term no blood no foul, a phrase common in the American streetball of the 1950s, a rougher offshoot of basketball.


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Examples

And if the IRS makes no adjustment, then there was no harm, no foul, in releasing those returns. (Forbes Magazine)

In this case, all were happily guilty as charged, but “no harm, no foul.” (The News & Observer)

“Appellate judges do not operate in silos, and the effect of a biased judge’s participation cannot be reduced to a ‘no harm, no foul’ determination based on vote distribution,” Green wrote. (The National Law Journal)

My feeling is, no harm, no foul, and as far as pot goes, I have never personally witnessed a stoned person being a menace to anything other than a bag of Funyuns. (The Austin Chronicle)

But this time there was no harm, no foul — the landing was safe and no trespassing laws were broken, she said. (The Contra Costa Times)

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