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Throw the book at 'em ~Riot Act?

Posted by Ray Jay on February 27, 2003

In Reply to: Throw the book at 'em ~Riot Act? posted by Robert on February 26, 2003

Thanks to all who responded and I am grateful for the information.

: I guess a milder punishment would be to "read the riot act" to, or severely scold the defendant(s).

: : : : : 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)