Short, sharp shock

The cover of a vocal score for Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado

The phrase "short, sharp shock" means "a quick, severe punishment."[1] It is an example of alliteration. Although the phrase originated earlier, it was popularised in Gilbert and Sullivan's 1885 comic opera The Mikado, where it appears in the song near the end of Act I, "I Am So Proud".[2] It has since been used in popular songs, song titles, literature, as well as in general speech.


John Conington's 1870 translation of the First Satire of Horace includes the following lines:

Yon soldier's lot is happier, sure, than mine:
One short, sharp shock, and presto! all is done.[3]
Other Languages