New Yorker (June 13) carries an article written by John Cassidy under the title, “The Iraq mess: Place blame where it is deserved.”

I thought the phrase, “Place blame where it is deserved” is a popular, fixed saying, and checked it on Google. I wasn’t able to find this phrase in the headings. Instead, I found the headline, “Teachers: Blame only where blame is due” in the article dealing with teachers’ responsibility for students’ performance in Washington Post’s archive (April 19, 2011), and “Blame its due” dealing with the growing problems of colony collapse of bees in MYRMECOS (May 1, 2014).

Obviously all headlines are saying the same thing with slightly different wordings. Are they simple variations of a popular idiom or cliché? If so, what is the "prototype" or standard phrasing of “Place blame where it is deserved / Blame where it’s due / Blame only where blame is due”?

  • Yoichi! This is exactly, another example of you finding very poorly written English. For anyone new to the site, please see my essay on this english.stackexchange.com/a/172844/8286 Once again, a writer (who is an idiot) is trying to "extend" or "vary" an idiom - but (due to their idiocy) the result is a mess. I believe this is a real phenomenon in English: people who are idiots and can barely write, try to "extend" or "use sarcasm" on existing forms (with pathetic results).
    – Fattie
    Jun 16, 2014 at 8:04
  • By the way, nobody has explained that the usage of "give credit where credit is due" is: (I simply looked this up in the OED) "Praise given when it is deserved, even if one is reluctant to give it." It is an expression of grudging praise. Say you and I dislike our half-cousin, Fred. We are always bad-mouthing Fred behind his back. However, Fred does something worthwhile. You and I would say "As much as we dislike Fred, I guess we have to give credit where credit is due..."
    – Fattie
    Jun 16, 2014 at 8:11
  • @JoeBlow - True it can be an expression of grudging praise, but it does not have to be. Even from the OED it says "even if one is reluctant..." not "when one is reluctant". You can use it genuinely too.
    – Lynn
    Jun 17, 2014 at 6:14

2 Answers 2


There is a popular idiom to: "Give credit where credit is due". It would seem that some of those instances you quoted are derived directly from that phrase, substituting 'blame' instead of 'credit'. "Place blame where it is deserved", on the other hand, sounds like a more literal application than a variant on the idiom.

  • 2
    Like the NYT, the folks at the NYer have forgotten how to write. Obviously it should be as you said: Give (place) blame where blame is due. The NYer's version is clumsy.
    – Vector
    Jun 16, 2014 at 1:43
  • 1
    "GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE is an American idiom that inspires us to recognize people for contributions they make to a project or a plan. The saying has Biblical roots, originating in the Bible book of Romans where the writer says, 'Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe tax, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.' ...Someone who works hard and does a good job deserves to be acknowledged. GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE." wcbroadcasting.com/knlsorg/English/trascripts/idiom001.htm
    – Third News
    Jun 16, 2014 at 3:28

Use of 'lay'

"Sir, "I do exceedingly thank you for the remembrance; but am sightless of the "wrong, that was done to my lord H. for he had been gone two hours before I "knew of his being here. I will satisfy him of my innocency, and he shall fee I will lay the blame where it is due. I pray you fend mr. Eure to me on Friday morning, and I will both give him a letter to his brother, and satisfaction touching his nephew. I rest "March 30. ** Your true friend, "E S S E X." -Memoirs of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, from the year 1581 till her death. In which the secret intrigues of her court, and the conduct of her favourite, Robert earl of Essex, both at home and abroad, are particularly illustrated. (Published 1754)


Waste not the time in fruitless complaints of this misfortune, or that accident; this minister, or that commander ; but lay the blame where it is due, upon national wickedness, which has called down national calamities. -Sixteen sermons on various subjects and occasions ... . Horne, George, 1730-1792 (published London, 1795)

Use of 'lodge'

Let our representatives in the legislature bring the question of their country to a vote, that they may give some proof of their own Zeal; and if we are to be disgraced, that they may lodge the blame where it is due, even upon us, if, after a fair inquiry, we shall appear to deserve it: that if we owe our mortification to a want of confidence -The Scots magazine (1762)

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