LSSU Banished Words list, 2008

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 3 19:08:58 UTC 2008

On Jan 3, 2008 8:22 AM, Dennis Preston <preston at> wrote:

"Raked over the coals"? Phrasal etymologists to the rescue? My mind's
eye tells me that "racked over..." would be more accurate.


Yes, "raked over the coals". I've known this idiom as long as I can
remember, and never with "racked". Here's some history from OED, with
different verbs:

as, adv. (conj., and rel. pron.)
1833 MARRYAT P. Simple xiii. (Hoppe) Seeing as how the captain had been
hauling him over the coals.

1959 P. MCCUTCHAN Storm South iv. 57, I didn't want to be hauled over the
coals for back-answering a passenger.

coal, n.
    12.... to haul, call ({dag}fetch, {dag}bring) over the coals: to call to
account and convict, to reprimand, call to task: originally in reference to
the treatment of heretics.
1565 CARD. ALLEN in Fulke Confut. (1577) 372 S. Augustine, that knewe best
how to fetche an heretike ouer the coles.

m a m

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