phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Throw the book at 'em

Posted by Masakim on February 25, 2003

In Reply to: (Correcting omission) posted by R. Berg 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. --> 2 To penalize, punish, reprimand, or criticize a person severely. Fairly common since c1950.

: : No time of origin is given for the first meaning.

: (I left out the "2" when first posting.)

Throw the book at someone, To. To charge them with a particular offence; to inflict a severe punishment on them. The 'book' is an imaginary book of rules or of offences and their prescribed penalties. The expression dates from the 1930s and is of American origin.
From _Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable_ by Adrian Room
The judge throws the book at him when he finally goes to bat. (Damon Runyon, _Collier's_, December 23, 1933)