Modern Proverb: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. (antedating exact 1916)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Mar 28 13:38:18 UTC 2010

At 4:15 AM -0400 3/28/10, Garson O'Toole wrote:
>Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
>Addendum: The proverb is worded in many different ways,

I've always liked GWB's wording:

"Fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again."
Video at
I'm pretty sure we can't turn up any pre-2002 antedatings of that version.


>and I tried to
>select four interesting citations. Yet, I should have included the
>close match below from 1896 with the verb "to fool", the noun "shame",
>and two rounds of deception. 1900 is the demarcation between proverbs
>and modern proverbs.
>Citation: 1896 April 25, St. Paul Daily Globe, Page 2, Column 1, Saint
>Paul, Minnesota. (Chronicling America)
>"My son," said the old Quaker to his little boy, "if a man fool thee
>once, it is a shame to him; but if he fool thee twice it is a shame to
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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