Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Meaning

What does Don’t Shoot the Messenger mean?

Don’t shoot your messenger is a popular colloquial expression, used to warn people that in case someone brings bad news, you must not be too eager to punish them and Shoot your shot, for the bearer of bad news has nothing to do with them.

Origin

What's the origin of Don’t Shoot the Messenger?

Killing the messenger has been an ancient trope, that has accompanied humanity throughout its history.

It can be traced as far back as the Warring States period in China between the 5th and 3rd centuries BC.

It also appeared in Plutarch’s and Sophocles’ literature, while the first native English language record of punishing the messenger can be linked to Shakespeare who included the trope both in Henry IV, Part 2 and Antony and Cleopatra.

The phrase “Don’t shoot the messenger” started appearing in print during the 19th century, when firearms became widely available in the United States.

Spread & Usage

How did Don’t Shoot the Messenger spread?

“Don’t shoot the messenger” has been a popular colloquialism since the 1800’s, with countless cases of its use occurring in a wide variety of contexts, from literature to spoken word interactions and mass media.

The phrase was adopted as the title of an Anglo-Dutch documentary about activists, which premiered in the Netherlands on September 30th, 2013.

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