Caught Red Handed

Meanings of “Caught Red Handed”

The phrase “caught red-handed” means to be caught in the act of committing an offense or crime. The act itself is evidence of the crime.

Origin of “Caught Red Handed”

The phrase “Caught Red Handed” has stemmed from the term Red-Handed which indicates having someone’s blood on one’s hand after the murder or execution. The phrase “caught red handed” is originally an Irish phrase which seems to have appeared in various printed documents such as Acts of Parliament of James 1 and in A Discourse upon Laws by Sir George Mackenzie as back as in 1674 where it has been used as “If he be not taken red-hand” which means to be caught when doing the act. Later, the word “take” was replaced with the standardized word “catch.”

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Caught Red Handed by Ishola Oreofe

You murdered him, yes you murderer, I caught you in plain sight, your hands painted with his blood red and bright, like blazing iron, u murdered that young blooming flower that was my mind, u sent it wilting, slowly dying refusing it the vitality of life.

This narrative prose poem portrays a woman who accuses her lover of murdering her mind, which she compares to a blooming flower. She says that the person has refused to provide vitality of life to her mind, which means that she has caught him in the criminal act. The phrase has been used in a metaphorical sense in this unusual poem.

Example #2

Caught Red Handed by Joyoti Arora

Bang. Sploosh. Smash.
Shattered glass. child lying still.
His face, florid from embarrassment.
What was he doing in here;
With the ruby raspberries,
And the milk spilled all over?
If he needed to quench his thirst,
He could have asked for help.
Much too short to reach the cupboards
He knew that he would slip and fall.
Crashing to linoleum beneath him.
Big sister, blue in the face with frustration;
She’s warned him many times before,
Not to get caught red-handed
It only brings more trouble.

Narrating the beautiful story of the spilling of water and shattering of glass by a child, the poet says that despite the warnings from his elder sister, the young boy does not stop and tries to get to the cupboard from where he slips and falls down, shattering the glass. However, his elder sister asks him that he should not get caught red handed. The phrase has double meanings, which shows good use of connotation.

Example #3

Crossword by Valzhyna Mort

the receiver is silent. the bird flounces
like a burglar caught red-handed.
her voice stumbles over her glands.
the body to be written in the last block—
i can suck his name out of any letter.

all three villages cover their faces with wind.

These lines shed light on the acts of the bird that flounces its plume. The next lines show that the receiver thinks about other things such as the village and the people. The phrase, however, is shown used as a simile that the bird’s flounce is compared to a burglar who is caught in the act. Therefore, the phrase shows the good use of a simile. 

Example #4

Caught Red Handed by Russel Hatler

This beautiful novel comprises the story of Jimmie and Dolly, who after hearing some suspicious activity in a casino in New Mexico, head to Albuquerque to investigate the issue. Jimmie, who is the most adamant chaser, chases down the suspects in a boat and ends up with the boat caught in a storm. Jimmie, being caught among them, tries to pull himself out and calls Dolly to take him out of this mess. The story then moves around them catching the culprits’ red handed. Therefore, the phrase has been used as the title of the novel.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “Jake was caught red-handed stealing cookies from the jar in the middle of the night. His mother gave him a good hiding and sent him to bed.”

Example #2: “He was caught red-handed when they saw the red blood on his shirt. They knew he couldn’t escape from his sins anymore.”

Example #3: “Once you have been caught red-handed, you cannot escape that prison. The prison is located at the top of the hill where you look down from the walls and retreat.”

Example #4: “The gang-leader escaped real quick with his other two team members but Ricky was left behind and the police now caught him red-handed. It was prison time for poor old Ricky and disappeared near the forest.

Example #5: “She tipped off the police about Ron, the biggest Don there ever was. It was her payback to him and now Ron was caught red handed in a criminal act, there was no way out for him now.