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Macabre origins of everyday phrases

To haul someone over the coals

This is an expression that is frequently used in business and politics. When you “haul someone over the coals” you criticize them severely for something that they have done.

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Raking people over the coals was something that was practiced in Europe a few centuries ago as a form of torture. If someone suspected that you were practicing witchcraft, or that you didn’t believe in the holy church  then you were accused of being a heretic and dragged over red-hot coals of a slow fire. If you survived the ordeal, you were declared innocent. If you didn’t, well it was just too bad.

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