Posted by James Briggs on December 19, 2003
In Reply to: Called out on the carpet. posted by ESC on December 18, 2003
: : Hi,
: : Does anyone know the origin of the saying "Called out on the carpet"?
: : Thanks,
: : --Robb
: From the archives:
: CALL ON THE CARPET or MAT ? ?to reprimand, to call to account. Late 1930s.? From ?Listening to America? by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982).
: ON THE CARPET ? ?In the days when ?carpet? retained its original sense, ?a thick fabric used to cover tables,? to have something ?on the carpet? had the same meaning that we now give to ?on the table?; that is, to have something up for discussion, for consideration. Such was the usage in the early eighteenth century and is still common usage in England, and is, as well, the intent of the French ?sur le tapis,? and the German ?aufs Tapet.? But dainty ladies found, even in the fifteenth century, that these thick fabrics also made ideal floor coverings and began to use them, first, in their bedchambers, and then in other private or formal rooms of a house. But they were for the use of the gentry.
: The occasions when a servant might ?walk the carpet,? as the expression went, was when he or she was called before the mistress or master of the house for a reprimand. Though this latter expression, coined in the early nineteenth century, is still in use, it has been largely replaced, especially in America, by transferring its meaning to ?on the carpet.?? From ?2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings & Expressions from White Elephants to a Song and Dance? by Charles Earle Funk (Galahad Book, New York, 1993).
: (A side note. "On the table" means a subject is up for discussion. But in legislative jargon in the U.S., to "table" a bill or to put a bill "on the table" is to take it out of action, out of consideration. It has to be voted off the table. I think we've discussed this before.)
The expression has a somewhat more sinister use in the UK. 'On the carpet' is the process of being reprimanded. It summons up a picture of a boss reprimanding an underling for a misdemeanour. This goes back to the days of the Victorian Civil Service when attainment of a certain status carried with it the right to a piece of carpet in the office.