Over a Barrel

Posted by R. Berg on August 10, 2001

In Reply to: Over a Barrel posted by Alex on August 10, 2001

: Anyone know the meaning and origin of this fine phrase?

The compilers of the Dictionary of American Slang did. They give two senses, both figurative:
--To be helpless; specif., to be helpless before one's creditors . . . to owe a debt which one cannot pay, esp., to have too little money to continue operating a business.
--To be in another's power, so that one has to accept business, personal, or social conditions set by another, or bear his insults and malicious words or deeds.
--In allusion to the state of a person put over a barrel to clear his lungs of water after a water mishap.