The idioms shooting the messenger and don’t shoot the messenger have their roots in ancient Greece. An idiom is a figure of speech that is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. We will examine the definitions of shooting the messenger and don’t shoot the messenger, where these phrases came from and some examples of their use in sentences.
Shooting the messenger means blaming the bearer of bad news for being responsible for that bad news. In ancient times, messengers were sent to impart official news, and these messengers sometimes incurred the wrath of the one receiving the bad news. The sentiment was expressed in the play Antigone, written by Sopholcles around 440 B.C.: ” For no man delights in the bearer of bad news.”
Don’t shoot the messenger is an admonition to not blame the bearer of bad news. It is often used when someone reveals a difficult truth that the listener does not want to hear. It reminds the listener that the truth is not the fault of the person revealing the truth.
Examples“Rather than adopting the philosophy of shooting the messenger or pushing the problems under the carpet, it is imperative to start dealing with the challenges facing Aadhaar before making it mandatory.” (The Star)The directors then resolved to dump Morgan Stanley – as plain a case of shooting the messenger as you’ll see. (The Guardian)“Actually, I was quite surprised looking at the most recent numbers for Southern Indiana, but it’s the data, so don’t shoot the messenger.” (The Evening News and Tribune)
Sorry to disappoint, but many voters won’t like the answer — please don’t shoot the messenger, or blame the messaging: There were three winners. (The Toronto Star)