Fool Me Once, Shame On You…

Meaning:

Recognizing that you fell for the same trick twice and realizing that you should’ve been able to identify it the second time around.

Example: A stranger comes up to you and begs for a few dollars. He claims that he lost his job and so he’s in desperate need of money. Feeling sorry for him, you give him what he asks for. You later learn that this person lied to you. Thus, he fooled you once, and shame on him for doing so.

Now, if this same person came up to you days later and repeated the same spiel as before, would you fall for the same trick again? Probably not, but if someone did, then they were fooled twice by the same ruse! Thus, shame on them, because they should have known better. So as the saying goes, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” (This is the full version of the proverb.)
Synonyms / Related Phrases:
None.

The Origin Of ‘Fool Me Once, Shame On You’

The earliest recording of this proverb in print is from a book called The Court and Character of King James by Anthony Weldon, 1651, where it reads:

“The Italians having a Proverb, ‘He that deceives me once, its his fault; but if twice, its my fault.'”

Based on the quote, it’s possible that this saying has an Italian origin, but I don’t think that can be confirmed for sure. Whatever the case, what we do know from this quote is that the phrase is over 360 years old, and it’s probably much older.


Example Sentence

  • I played some one on one basketball with my friend, Kyle. He ended up winning by using a clever spin move to get through my defense. He also won last time we played with the same move! I should have been wise to it this time around; fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, as the saying goes.

Tip: Use the menu at the top to find more common phrases like this one.

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