English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Is this idiom an offshoot of an older idiom? I have heard something that sounds similar to this, but the words were slightly different.

share|improve this question
Possible duplicate: What is the etymology of “…kick ass and take names”? – Callithumpian Apr 15 '11 at 22:17
It's related, but that question generated the above statement. People seem to think that it answered that question, so I had to make another question. – language hacker Apr 15 '11 at 22:56
Seems to me it's a variation. On police dealing with dangerous criminals -- or perhaps overzealous police -- there's the expression "shoot first, question the pieces later." – mfe Apr 16 '11 at 0:14
"Kicking ass and taking numbers" is another way of expressing this. You are so awesome at a task that people are lining up to take you on. – user44641 May 21 '13 at 17:52

I believe that the phrase "kicking ass and taking names" also has a military origin. It comes from the act of subduing enemies, and then identifying them. After capture, military forces collect name, rank, and serial number.

share|improve this answer
Do you have any references or uses that can be added to your answer? – MrHen Jun 23 '11 at 16:50

User "UnequivocallyAwesome" at Urban Dictionary claims it is a form of "Kick ass and ask questions later," which in turn is taken from "Shoot first, ask questions later," but UA has only this one entry and it has almost half as many downvotes as upvotes.

I don't think the two phrases (kick ass, take names; shoot first, question later) are related, but it seems the two have often been confused and combined. A search will turn up several different mashups of the two phrases.

See my answer to What is the etymology of “…kick ass and take names”? for earliest uses of that phrase.

Shoot first, ask questions later is an earlier phrase. I found it back to this 1919 US military publication:


Earlier examples of doing X, ask questions later exist however, as well as the general concept of asking questions later while in the heat of battle.

share|improve this answer

Based on personal experience, "taking names" derives from the common practice in public schools in the United States of a teacher appointing a student to be classroom monitor when he or she had to absent herself temporarily from the classroom. Often the student monitor would be perched on a stool at the front of the classroom, and would write on the blackboard the name of any misbehaving student.

share|improve this answer
What does that have to do with "kicking ass?" – Casey Oct 21 '14 at 15:40

Phrase can be used in reference to someone or something that is having multiple successes in succession. kicking ass - Kicking someone or something's ass, beating, defeating an opponent at a task. taking names - Recording a list of future contestants who will have also be beaten or defeated in the defined task. "Aunt Betty-Joe was kicking ass and taking names at bingo last night."

share|improve this answer

protected by RegDwigнt May 21 '13 at 22:11

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.