Michael Cohen retweeted something which said:

let’s gut her

"her" is referring to Megyn Kelly.

He later said that this was not a threat to her safety, as the definition of "gut" is:

to make (something) no longer effective

I looked at Webster, and it defines "gut" as:

  • to remove the internal organs from (a fish or an animal)
  • to destroy the inside of (a structure)
  • to destroy the power of (something) : to make (something) no longer effective


Examples of gut in a sentence

  • The salmon is already gutted and filleted.
  • Critics claim that these reforms will gut the law.

I knew that both definitions exist, but I didn't know that the second definition - to make something no longer effective - could be used when referring to a person, I always thought it could only be used when referring to things such as laws and regulations. So my questions are:

  1. Can "to gut" be used like this, referring to a person?
  2. Is it commonly used this way?
  3. Is that how most native speakers would interpret the sentence?
  • 3
    I think he meant "let's kill her," even if it was an empty threat. His redefinition was just a pretence: "weasel words", as they say.
    – Mick
    Nov 18, 2016 at 17:01
  • 3
    The disgusting people who write this shite (Irish usage) on the internet mean that in the same way as you have in the salmon sentence. Obviously, the man is a pig. Regardless. Any AmE speaker would read it as being very violent. There is no way that to make something ineffective using GUT is not violent.
    – Lambie
    Nov 18, 2016 at 19:08

2 Answers 2


"Gut" is one of those wonderfully picturesque verbs that can be used metaphorically to mean something related, but still retains the image of its original meaning (to remove the internal organs of an animal).

Other examples of similar metaphors:

The rock band trashed their hotel rooms.

He's just fishing for compliments.

Let's nail down the details of the contract.

Hopefully Cohen doesn't really mean he wants to eviscerate Kelly -- that would be problematic. Still, there are many words he could have used that don't have such violent connotations like, "Let's wreck her," or "Let's ruin her," or "Let's make her pay," or various others.

The fact that he chose to use gut over all the other phrases at his disposal creates ominous overtones which Kelly (and those who support her) might take the wrong way.

[Edit] In the context of the overall discussion, apparently Kelly mentioned something about being "in a shark tank". "Gut" is a verb often associated with the process of cleaning fish, and so its use could be considered a related metaphor (sharks -> fish -> etc.) However Cohen has a reputation for being a vicious and nasty person, and so his use of a violent metaphor like "gut" was probably deliberate.

  • Actually that is what he meant by retweeting here.
    – Peter
    Nov 18, 2016 at 17:54
  • 1
    One thing to consider is that Megyn said she was "in a shark tank", and "gutted like a fish" is a trope (tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GuttedLikeAFish). It doesn't appear accidental to me that "gut" was chosen over the other possible words. (I don't care for anyone involved in this incident, so please don't interpret that as me taking a side).
    – ColleenV
    Nov 18, 2016 at 18:22
  • @ColleenV thanks, as usual context is everything. If they were already using fishy metaphors like "shark tank", then "gut" is not especially nasty as a response.
    – Andrew
    Nov 18, 2016 at 18:53
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    @Lambie yeah, well, Cohen is a one of the more deplorable in that basket.
    – Andrew
    Nov 18, 2016 at 19:31
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    I think you missed my point - it is particularly nasty because it evokes "gut you like a fish". You could talk about gutting Kelly's show (removing it's core and leaving it's shell) and it wouldn't have awful connotations but when you say it about it person it tends to evoke One of the nastier ways to kill a character that tends to show up in a lot of Slasher Movies.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 18, 2016 at 19:46

There is one definition of Gut that defines it as:

To reduce or destroy the effectiveness of (something)

As I have not heard this form of the word used often, I do believe he was trying to avoid a situation he did not anticipate. It may have been meant as an empty threat, per say, but very rarely have I seen it used to directly describe the act of destroying someone or somethings effectiveness.

You could argue that, by gutting someone's insides, it does destroy their effectiveness ;)

  • Perhaps you are not aware of the bashing of this journalist by the Trump etc.?
    – Lambie
    Nov 18, 2016 at 19:30

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