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Ratted out

Posted by ESC on July 31, 2009 at 12:40

In Reply to: Ratted out posted by Steve Vise on July 31, 2009 at 07:39:

: What is the origin of "ratted out"?

Short answer, rats off a sinking ship. It is a prison term, according to "The Slang of Sin" by Tom Dalzell. (A second meaning -- during American prohibition -- a rat was the individual who actually carried the liquor on his or her person.) Another reference is more specific. 1792, noun, one who deserts one's party or associates. Verb, 1812 -- to desert. 1902, noun, police informant. 1934, verb, turn traitor or act as an informant. "Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology" by Robert K. Barnhart (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 1995). Page 636.