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The meaning and origin of the expression: Felt his collar

Felt his collar

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'Felt his collar'?

The expression 'felt his collar' is a slang referring to the arrest of a criminal. The specific reference is to the grabbing of a criminal from behind after a chase.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Felt his collar'?

The meaning and origin of the expression 'Felt his collar'.For me at least, this expression initially conjured up images of Bow Street runners chasing down ne'er do wells on the murky streets of Victorian London. When setting out to research the phrase I expected to find it in Dickens or the like. Actually, it turns out to be a much more recent coinage than that. The first example that I can find of it is in the English author Paul Tempest's Lag's Lexicon a Comprehensive Dictionary and Encyclopedia of the English Prison of to Day, 1950:

To ‘get your collar felt (or touched)’ is to be arrested or stopped by the police.

'I'll feel his collar' was often used by characters in hard-boiled London-based TV police dramas of the 1970s, like The Sweeney and The Professionals. It quickly became well enough established that, in those shows and now in real life, an arrest became known as a collar.

Confusingly, there was already a type of draft horse harness called a Sweeney Collar. This is just a coincidence and not the source of the name of the TV show. That name is Cockney Rhyming Slang - Flying Squad -> Sweeney Todd.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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