Going postal

Going postal is an idiom that is a few decades old. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, on the ball, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom going postal, from where this expression is derived, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Going postal describes a situation in which someone is consumed by a violent rage. Most often, going postal describes a situation in which an employee or a former employee kills his fellow workers in a stress-induced rage. The term going postal was coined in the United States during the 1990s because of a number of incidents of U.S. Post Office employees shooting their fellow workers and attributing their rage to the stress of their postal jobs. The first known use of the term was in the St. Petersburg Times in 1993, though the idiom was apparently already in use by that time. Later studies have shown that postal employees are no more likely to attack their fellow workers than employees at other agencies or companies, but the idiom going postal has remained popular. Related phrases are go postal, goes postal, went postal.


Mass shootings aren’t a new phenomenon — the phrase “going postal” was born decades ago after a rash of shootings carried out by postal workers against their colleagues. (The Virginian-Pilot)

An Upper Darby man went postal on his letter carrier by threatening to stab him for not properly delivering his mail, authorities said. (The Delaware County Daily Times)

A United States Postal Service worker in New Jersey “went postal” — purposefully striking co-workers with her car, authorities allege. (The New York Daily News)


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