Chew Someone out (Origin)

What Is the Origin of the Saying "Chew Someone out"?

The term "chew someone out" means verbally scold someone.
Chew Someone out (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • She was really upset with him and decided to chew him out for his irresponsible behavior.
  • When the boss discovered the mistake, he called the employee into his office to chew him out for the error.
  • After receiving complaints from customers, the manager decided to chew the employee out for the poor service.
  • She was frustrated with her teammate's lack of effort and decided to chew him out during the team meeting.
  • The coach didn't hold back and chewed out the players for their lackluster performance in the game.
The term to "chew someone out" originates from the 1940s in the US military. It derives from the military saying to "chew someone's balls" as a form of punishment. It is, of course, an idle threat, much like "I'll rip your arm off and bash you with the soggy end."

Competing Theory

"To chew someone out" originates from the US military in the 1940s. It comes from the practice of consistently shouting at someone while being in their personal space, typically touching faces. When viewed by a third party, it looks like the shouter is chewing on the "offender."

Of note, both of these theories claim that the term comes from the 1940s. This is supported by Google's Ngram Viewer, which scans millions of publications released in the last two centuries. Therefore, it is likely this term came to prominence during World War II.

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.