7

Please kill me and (just) shoot me now are two common idiomatic colloquial expressions which are generally used to mean that you, metaphorically, would rather die than do something or to express the idea you just cannot stand something.

  • a ten-hour drive to get there?? Just shoot me now, please.
  • the whole week-end with your parents? No, please kill me.

    (Just) shoot me:

  • Expression of dismay, where the speaker is expressing, metaphorically, his/her wish to die because events (for him/her) are so bad.

  • This phrase can also be used with the ironic meaning 'kill me, I am to blame', equivalent to the Latin phrase mea culpa. It is chiefly a US English phrase made popular in the last decade or so. (wiktionary)

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Though they may be natural expressions and, as noted, there are similar ones in other languages, I think that something (a song, a novel, a TV show etc.)must have made these expressions popular as they are known and used now.

My questions:

  • What made them popular, and are they really used mainly in AmE?
  • What other effective expressions could be used to replace them?
  • 4
    Sometimes an expression is just an expression. In this case it's likely that 100 different people all used it "first", without ever hearing it from someone else. – Hot Licks May 14 '15 at 12:07
  • 3
    It’s not only an English expression—I know with certainty that I myself have heard it used in Danish and Chinese, and I’m sure it exists in many other languages. In Danish, it’s most commonly Hvorfor ikke bare skyde mig nu og få det overstået? (‘Why not just shoot me now and get it overwith?’), and in Mandarin 杀了我吧 (‘[Go ahead and] kill me’). Actually, I’ve never heard “Please kill me” as such in English, only variations like “(Just) kill/shoot me now”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 14 '15 at 12:36
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    I feel like it's shown up in sci fi movies a number of times, where a character has been transmogrified into a bulbous painful mass with barely a mouth to make the death request. Aliens? The Fly? Star Trek? – Mitch May 14 '15 at 13:05
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    Moses (in his native language, of course) first used the expression as a bluff to try to get out of leading his people out of bondage in Egypt to the promised land (Numbers 11:10-15)(some of the ngram spikes for it might be from publications of new editions of the book containing that chapter & verse, although the spike around 1880 might be from books hitting the market about the Civil War, during which it was often meant, I’m sure, literally & not as a bluff). Moses apparently had no more success with it as a bluff than I do when I use it to try get out of spending time with the in-laws. – Papa Poule May 14 '15 at 14:20
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    @PapaPoule - With regard to your in-laws, would it not save a lot of time and trouble to reverse the direction in which death is about to be dispensed? – Erik Kowal May 18 '15 at 5:43
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I'll answer only second part of your question. There can be extensive amount of other effective expressions to replace this one.

For example all of mine would start with:

I'd rather [add something causing pain or discomfort] than [something that's about to happen / you're about to do]

as in

I'd rather be quartered and fried than go to school again.
I'd rather clean the city sewers than write another example.
I'd rather walk over a lego bricks on fire than travel by plane.

It might not be a phrase, but everyone understands the comparison between bad situation and a worse situation and sarcasm behind it.

So "shoot me" might just as well be a shorter version of:

I'd rather be shot than ...

The popularity of the "shot" or "killed" might be because that seems like the ultimate misfortune.

4
+100

“Shoot me now” (origin?)

Nathaniel Thomas Haynes Bayly (1797 – 1839) an English poet, songwriter, dramatist, and miscellaneous writer, in 1837 penned Kindness in Women.

In the following passage, taken from the story entitled Kate Leslie, the phrase ‘shoot me now’ appears to be idiomatic; a mild curse which the speaker utters in mock frustration as he tries to recall where he has seen the woman's face. They are fellow passengers travelling in a stagecoach, and Kate is with her husband.

‘None, I'm very much obliged to you,’ said Kate.
‘I can't help thinking I know your face somewhere, marm’ said the fat man, staring at Kate with a knowing smile.
‘I don't think it likely, sir,’ said Hanson with immense dignity.
‘Don't you ?’ replied the huge stranger with provoking indifference. ‘I'm sure, marm, you and I have met somewhere; but shoot me now if I can tell where!’
‘I have lived a very retired life, sir, and do not think it probable that we should have met.’
‘Oh ! I know,’ said the fat man, slapping his right thigh with his right hand.
‘Sure enough, it warn't in a room, nor any how that I could speak to you ; but 'twas at the Manchester theayter, and I was in the pit, and, I remember now, you was the pretty girl what acted Don Giovanni in tight breeches and a hat and feathers.’

Please Kill Me (origin?)

PLEASE KILL ME

The Uncensored Oral History of Punk

The title of a book on the history of the punk movement in the US was published in 1996

New York Times review

Story of Punk: More the Ugly Gossip Than the Music's Impact
August 22, 1996 By JON PARELES

“Please Kill Me,” named after a T-shirt once worn by a member of Television, doesn't have much to say about the music itself. It's a book of gossip, usually from the participants themselves, about couplings, petty crime, hustles, pratfalls, snubs, traffic mishaps, fistfights, knife fights and overdoses. In it, sex and drugs are inextricably linked to rock-and-roll; so are dissension, ambition and death. And true to its subject, ''Please Kill Me'' is lurid, insolent, disorderly, funny, sometimes gross, sometimes mean and occasionally touching. Its alternate subtitles might be “The Romance of Self-Destruction” or perhaps, “Body Fluids of the Poor and Infamous.”

Richard Hell, who leaves Television with a ripped T-shirt and the song that should have been an anthem, ''Blank Generation'';

The American band, Television, formed in New York City in 1973, is said to have inspired the punk movement in the mid-70s. In 1975 Tom Verlaine, the band's front singer, reportedly kicked Richard Hell out, a co-founder of the band, after complaining that his unpredictable performance and behaviour in gigs drew attention away from the music, he would also refuse to play Hell's perhaps most famous and iconic punk song The Blank Generation on stage.

In vain, I searched online for the original t shirt, created by Richard Hell, between 1973 and 1975. I did however, find this description

Hell had written the words "Please Kill Me" on a shirt and included a graphic of a bulls-eye below it. He then decided it was against his better judgment to actually wear it – the duty was somehow assumed by Television guitarist Richard Lloyd. According to Lloyd, “Richard... wouldn’t wear it. So I [did]. These fans gave me this really psychotic look... Then they said, ‘If that’s what you want, we’ll be glad to oblige because we’re such big fans!’... and I thought, I’m not wearing this shirt again.”
NYROCK.com

enter image description here

Two years later...

In 1998 Adam Sandler starred in the romantic comedy movie The Wedding Singer and played a spoof punk-rock song called Somebody Kill Me, Please

You don't know how much I need you
While you're near me I don't feel blue
And when we kiss I know you need me too
I can't believe I've found a love that's so pure and true

But it all was bullshit 
It was a goddamn joke
And when I think of you Linda
I hope you fuckin' choke

I hope you're glad with what you've done to me
I lay in bed all day long feeling melancholy
You left me here all alone, tears running constantly

Oh somebody kill me please
Somebody kill me please
I'm on my knees, pretty pretty please
Kill me
I want to die
Put a bullet in my head...

The YouTube video, posted in May 2006, has been watched 3,662,533 times, which suggests that the scene/song enjoys a moderate cult following.

2011 meme

According to the website Know Your Meme ®, the image macro Kill Me first appeared in Reddit, and might have been inspired by the 1986 cult movie Alien in which a crew member of a spaceship is trapped in a cocoon and begs to be killed.

Alternative expressions

I like all the suggestions which have been upvoted so far. In particular DavePhD's, put me out of my misery, which I think comes closest to please kill me, and just shoot me now. And Zikato who's shown that there are many possible variations on the theme; I'd rather XXX than XXX. However, I've been asked by the OP for suggestions, so here are two

  1. Why me? What have I done to deserve this?

  2. I need [a ten-hour drive] like a hole in the head.

  • Yeah, I'd already come up with a couple of uses from the mid 1800s, but that doesn't seem to satisfy Opie. – Hot Licks May 19 '15 at 0:17
  • @HotLicks it's easier to find "shoot me now" instances that are not meant in the literal sense too :). nite, nite! – Mari-Lou A May 19 '15 at 1:59
  • Excellent findings, the kill me story sounds very convincing ( I suspected that the Punk generation had something to do with it). The shoot me now one is less clear. Its old origin as a natural way to express dismay can be taken for granted, and your early usage instance is very interesting, but my gut feeling is that, as killme please* some more recent facts made it so popular. I may be wrong of course. Very good answer, though. :) – user66974 May 19 '15 at 8:24
  • There is no way that that is the origin of "kill me", in the figurative sense. Keep in mind that guns are a relatively recent invention, so "shoot me" is only a "modern" adaptation of "kill me". – Hot Licks May 19 '15 at 11:03
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    @HotLicks it's a possible explanation as to why Please, kill me became a sort of catchphrase, and is today a popular meme. The punk scene in NYC had a massive following in the 70s and 80s, and punk-rock music still has what I would call street credibility, so the young today find a cult phrase from a cult era and manipulate it to their own needs and desires. This is the best non-literal example of "Please, kill me" I could find. – Mari-Lou A May 19 '15 at 11:23
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"Stranger," said he, "if I ever get back to God's Country, and you catch me again on these yere plains, you may just shoot me for a prairie dog. I've seen all I want of this yere living, and don't hanker for no more of it."

Underground or Life Below the Surface, Thomas W. Knox, 1874.

And then he stood and scratched his head, 
  And opened wide his eyes in wonder;
At last he cried, "Just shoot me dead,
  If I hain't got a plan -- by thunder!
We'll compromise the matter, squire;
  I'll take six hundred -- you, what's over;
Then I'll have just my honest hire,
  And on it I can live in clover."

Out of Town by Barry Gray, 1866

  • Interesting findings, but I don't think that the expression used today actually comes from there. You are right in saying that it may just be a natural expression and probably the following TV show made it popular as it is currently used. Just Shoot Me! is an American television sitcom that aired for seven seasons on NBC from March 4, 1997, to August 16, 2003, with 148 episodes produced. The show was so popular that its first season of six episodes were all aired by NBC in a single month in March 1997. – user66974 May 15 '15 at 7:49
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    @Josh61 - I wasn't claiming that the expression came from the above references, but simply that it's not uncommon and has likely been "invented" many times. And I chose to research "just shoot me" rather than "please kill me" simply because the latter has too many spurious "hits" on NGram. And the fact that "just shoot me" was used as a TV show title demonstrates that it was a well-know expression already. – Hot Licks May 15 '15 at 12:17
  • Note that the title of the sitcom is a double meaning, inasmuch as the show features a photographer, and "shoot" can mean "take a photograph". – Scott Mar 18 '16 at 3:17
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Unfortunately, the phrases aren't necessarily metaphorical.

A quote of literal use, which also provides the answer to what is an alternative expression, is taken form Inferno: the life and death epic struggle of the USS Franklin in World War II page 155,

quoting Stan Butryn (who had just walked up stairs to the aircraft carrier deck)

All off a sudden a guy ran up to me...completely aflame from his head to his shoes...He screamed "Stan!Stan!Shoot me!Please shoot me! Put me out of my misery!" What can a man do? There was absolutely no way we could put out the fire. Hell, we didn't have anything to put the fire out with. Nothing. We were issued a .38 revolver and I had mine in a shoulder holster. So I drew my .38...

So the alternative expression is "put me out of my misery".

Another example of an alternative, from a folk song as sung in 1910 in Knott County, Kentucky, as published in Folk-Songs of the South, at page 95:

If this be false I bring to you
As you believe it to be
You need not build the gallows for me
Just hang me on a tree

  • Yes, there are many non-metaphorical uses in the literature, which is one reason why researching this is so hard. But in spite of this I was able to extract a couple of metaphorical uses going back to the 1800s. – Hot Licks May 18 '15 at 20:42
0

mortify (v.) late 14c., "to kill," from Old French mortefiier "destroy, overwhelm, punish," from Late Latin mortificare "cause death, kill, put to death," literally "make dead," from mortificus "producing death," from Latin mors (genitive mortis) "death" (see mortal (adj.)) + root of facere "to make" (see factitious). Religious sense of "to subdue the flesh by abstinence and discipline" first attested early 15c. Sense of "humiliate" first recorded 1690s (compare mortification).

mortify 3: to subject to severe and vexing embarrassment : shame

So the concept of being "embarrassed to death" goes back to the 1690s. (Actually, that sense for "mortification" goes back to the 1640s.)

0

"What other effective expressions could be used to replace them?"

Excuse the profanity, but

F*ck this sh!t

is an effective replacement in my opinion.

0

Notwithstanding my tongue-in-cheek comment above, Moses’ use of the expression (translated as “please kill me at once”/ “please kill me here and now”) as reported in the Book of Numbers is probably not directly related to the current use and meaning of “Please kill me” in English today.

However, I do think it is possible that Gloria Beatty’s (played by Jane Fonda in the movie) use of “Please shoot me” in “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?” (1935 novel/1969 film) might have a connection to the modern metaphorical use and meaning of that particular variation on the theme. (Although the poster cited in the last link does seem to have genuine cause for depression and like Moses and Ms Beatty, perhaps was using the phrase in the literal sense)

As for another similar expression, there’s “Please [just] push me off a cliff!

-2

Please kill me means that you would rather be nothing than to be humiliated or in a state of constant discomfort.

Example:

Your in-laws are coming for the week.

Please kill me

This would mean that you do not like your In Laws because they irritate you or are unpleasant or humiliate you (in front of others) and that you would rather be dead (since dead people have no worldly concerns) than be with them.

  • 6
    Great explanation, but did you read my question? – user66974 May 14 '15 at 20:16
  • @Josh61 - I think it's been demonstrated that the expression is not "chiefly a US English phrase made popular in the last decade or so" but rather an expression found in many languages and going back to the time of Moses, if not earlier. Of did you not read the comments? – Hot Licks May 14 '15 at 22:00
  • The comment from @Mitch is interesting. – user66974 May 14 '15 at 22:23
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    @Josh61 - It is not a "recent" expression. One version or another may gain currency as the whims of teenager argot waver back and forth, but the basic idea as been around for decades that I know of, and there's good evidence that it's been around for much, much longer. – Hot Licks May 14 '15 at 22:33

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