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Posted by Word Camel on January 20, 2004

In Reply to: Put to death, shame, etc. posted by R. Berg on January 20, 2004

: : : : : I did a search in the Phrase Thesaurus for "exposure" and this phrase "Put to shame" came up.

: : : : : What does "Put to shame" have to do with "exposure"?

: : : : : Is it like exposing a person and then letting everyone know about it? E.g. His dodgy dealings were exposed and his company was put to shame??

: : : : My understanding of the phrase "put to shame" is to outdo or best someone. "Her baked goods put the rest of ours to shame."

: : : Either use seems correct to me. The essential word here is 'shame'. In the 'dodgy dealings' example, the exposure of same has shamed the company. In the 'baked goods' example it's more tongue in cheek, suggesting that the losing bakers should have been ashamed of their product as it simply doesn't come up to she required superior standard.

: : : However, I too am curious to know why the phrase 'put to shame' is so structured. Why 'put to'?

: : I think it has to do with the way the word 'put' is used. Here's one of the meanings from the American Heritage Dictionary "To urge or force to an action: a mob that put the thief to flight." I'd quite like to see what the OED says about that one though. I'd like to know if there is a publicness implied in it.

: "Put [something] to the test" and "put the question to you" are additional similar uses.

: For "put," the OED has "To thrust, push, and allied senses, in which the application of force is expressed" as the definition for the historically earliest group of meanings, beginning in the 13th century, now mostly obsolete or dialectal. From those, the word acquired further uses. "Put" has several pages in the OED.

I appreciate this. I thought I was going to inherit an old copy recently. Alas, it was not to be. I still have the electronic version on my Christmas list but so far it's gone unheeded. :)