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Re: Red tape

Posted by Gary Martin on September 21, 2007

In Reply to: Re: Red tape posted by Victoria S Dennis on September 21, 2007

: : 'A jungle of red tape' and 'bureaucratic procedure'.

: : Would you explain what is the difference between the two expressions?

: : The context:

: : A jungle of red tape and bureaucratic procedure, together with inadequate state and regional planning, threaten to strangle New Delhi's multi-billion dollar plans to upgrade boxship ports, top Indian business consultants have warned.

: For centuries British lawyers and government officials used to tie their bundles of papers together with red tape (I don't know if they still do). Charles Dickens is generally credited with first having used "red tape" as a metaphor for "rigid official rules and procedures".

: Thank you for providing the context for your query! The writer has effectively said the same thing twice; once metaphorically ("red tape") and once literally ("bureaucratic procedure"). Perhaps s/he thought that "red tape" by itself would not be universally understood, and that "bureaucratic procedure" by itself was not vivid enough. (VSD)

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable has put it about that Dickens coined 'red tape', but are rather light on evidence to support that. I can't find it in a database of Dickens' works. Our old friend Edward Bulwer-Lytton used it in 'Alice, or the mysteries', 1838.