Understanding the Phrase: “Fool Me Once, Shame On You…”

graphic stating "fool me once shame on you. fool me twice shame on me."

This phrase is used when you fall for the same trick twice. It’s a way of expressing that you should have recognized it the second time that it occurred. 

Example: 

A person approaches you at the gas station and asks for a few dollars to fill his tank. He shares a sad story about driving across the state to visit his daughter in the hospital. You give him some cash. A few weeks later, you’re at the same gas station, and the same man approaches you. He starts his story all over again, but this time you know it’s a lie. So you turn him away, saying, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” 

Origin of “Fool Me Once, Shame On You…”

This phrase first appeared in print in 1651. It was in a book called The Court and Character of King James by Anthony Weldon.

Examples

Patricia and Julie’s soccer teams played against each other last weekend. Patricia kept getting past Julie with a fancy spin move. During the rematch today, Patricia used the same move to score 2 goals! Julie hung her head and said, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”

Related: Now learn about the phrase “a watched pot never boils.”


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By Patrice Riley

Patrice Riley is the pen name of Dr. Deborah Riley. She is a retired English professor that enjoys grammar, literature, and all things writing.

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