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Throw the book at 'em!

Posted by R Berg on February 25, 2003

In Reply to: Throw the book at em! posted by Ray Jay on February 25, 2003

: Anyone know the origin of the idiom or phrase "Throw the book at em." I realize it means prosecute someone to the fullest extent of the law, a law enforcement term, but does anyone really know where it came from and when it first began being used?

Dictionary of American Slang, 1960 ed., says:

1 To sentence a guilty person to the maximum term of imprisonment. Orig. underworld use. From the image of a judge sentencing a criminal to every penalty found in books of law. --> To penalize, punish, reprimand, or criticize a person severely. Fairly common since c1950.

No time of origin is given for the first meaning.