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Encyclopedia > Shooting the messenger

"Shooting the messenger" is a phrase describing the act of lashing out at the (blameless) bearer of bad news.


In ancient times, messages were delivered in person by a human messenger. Sometimes, in times of war, the messenger would be from the enemy. An easily-provoked recipient would take out his anger on the person delivering the message, literally killing the messenger. In modern usage, the expression refers to any kind of punishment of the person bringing bad news.


Alternative expressions:

  • "Killing the messenger"
  • "Attacking the messenger"
  • "Blaming the bearer of bad tidings"

Shooting the messenger is a time-honored, but counterproductive, way of dealing with problems.


The advice "Don't shoot the messenger" was first expressed by Sophocles as far back as 442 B.C. and much later by Shakespeare in Henry IV, part 2 (1598) and in Antony and Cleopatra (1606-07). A Roman bust. ... William Shakespeare—born April 1564; baptised April 26, 1564; died April 23, 1616 (O.S.), May 3, 1616 (N.S.)—has a reputation as the greatest of all writers in English. ... Henry IV part 2 is a history play by William Shakespeare, first published as part of Shakespeares First Folio. ... Antony and Cleopatra is a historical tragedy by William Shakespeare, first performed in 1607 or 1608 and printed in the First Folio, 1623. ...


"Attacking the messenger" is also the colloquial name of the ad hominem logical fallacy. An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin, literally argument to the man) or attacking the messenger, is a logical fallacy that involves replying to an argument or assertion by attacking the person presenting the argument or assertion rather than the argument itself. ...


A syntactically similar expression is "Don't shoot the piano player; he's doing the best he can". It originated around 1860 in the Wild West of the United States. During his 1883 tour of the United States, Oscar Wilde saw this saying on a notice in a Leadville, Colorado, saloon. This phrase (like many witty sayings of that era) is sometimes attributed to Mark Twain, but neither Wilde nor Twain ever claimed authorship. Great Basin region, typical American West The Western United States has played a significant role in history and fiction. ... Oscar Wilde Oscar Fingal OFlahertie Wills Wilde (October 16, 1854 – November 30, 1900) was an Anglo-Irish playwright, novelist, poet, and short story writer. ... View of Mount Massive looking west from Harrison Street in downtown Leadville Leadville is the county seat of Lake County, Colorado. ... Mark Twain Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was a famous American humorist, novelist, writer and lecturer. ...


See also


  Results from FactBites:
 
Shoot the Messenger (427 words)
You could manually disable the Windows Messenger Service if you want -- the University of Virginia's Information Technology and Communications department shows you how to disable it at http://www.itc.virginia.edu/desktop/docs/messagepopup/ -- but if I were you I'd just hop on over to http://grc.com/stm/shootthemessenger.htm and download the free "Shoot the Messenger" program.
Shoot the Messenger was created by Steve Gibson at Gibson Research, the guy behind ShieldsUp and SpinRite.
The Windows Messenger Service is now disabled, and your computer is now protected from both the spammers and the hackers who have been using the Windows Messenger Service to do nasty things to other people's computers.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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