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The meaning and origin of the expression: Don't get mad, get even

Don't get mad, get even

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'Don't get mad, get even'?

The proverbial saying 'don't get mad, get even' means that, when suffering a loss at the hands of another, don't waste your energy on anger but work towards redressing the harm done.

The sentiment is similar to another proverb - revenge is a dish best served cold.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Don't get mad, get even'?

Proverbs are 'short and expressive sayings, in common use, which are recognized as conveying some accepted truth or useful advice'. This example is as pertinent today as it ever was.

In fact, unlike many similar 'don't...' proverbs, this one isn't very old.

Don't get mad, get evenThe person who popularised its use was John Kennedy. He used the expression in an interview with the American journalist Ben Bradlee. This interview was published in 1975 as part of Conversations with Kennedy:

Some of the reasons have their roots in that wonderful law of the Boston Irish political jungle: 'Don’t get mad; get even.'

Clearly Kennedy must have been aware of the expression prior to November 1963, when he was assassinated. However, I can find no records of the phrase in print during his lifetime. It seems that he was correct in attributing 'don't get mad, get even' to the US political scene. The Democrat spokesperson Carmine Warschaw used it in a speech, reported in The Californian newspaper The Valley Times, February 1965:

Mrs Warschaw introduced the congressmen and elected officials who attended the dinner. Regarding some Democratic losses she had this advice: 'Don't get mad... just get even.'

See other 'Don't...' proverbs:

Don't cast your pearls before swine

Don't change horses in midstream

Don't count your chickens before they are hatched

Don't cut off your nose to spite your face

Don't keep a dog and bark yourself

Don't let the bastards grind you down

Don't let the cat out of the bag

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth

Don't put the cart before the horse

Don't shut the stable door after the horse has bolted

Don't throw good money after bad

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater

Don't try to teach your Grandma to suck eggs

Don't upset the apple-cart

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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