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Origin of "walking papers"?

Posted by Bruce Kahl on December 02, 2001

In Reply to: Origin of "walking papers"? posted by John Blackmore on December 02, 2001

: I've heard the expression a lot, and I know my grandfather used to hear his father say it. But no one knows where it came from! It's obviously a very old expression, I'm just curious how it originated, if known. The usage is 'to give someone his walking papers' which generally means to fire someone or otherwise get rid of them. My grandfather used to tell my mother to give someone his walking papers if she were dating someone he didn't approve of.

Walking Papers:

A dismissal, as in "They're downsizing, and I got my walking papers last week".
This slangy expression, first recorded in 1835, refers to a written notice of dismissal.

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer © 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust

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