Words at Play : Top 10 Words Born in Conflict
Prev

#1: The Riot Act

These days, if someone "reads the riot act" to you, they probably aren't actually reading anything. They're just reprimanding you, with gusto.

The original Riot Act was a completely different thing.

In the early 18th century, the Riot Act was something actually read aloud – by the agents of King George I, who used it to break up gatherings of more than twelve people by ordering them to disperse within an hour. (One practical issue: it can be challenging to read something audibly during a riot.)

The term's meaning has changed over the centuries, but it still suggests a serious offense.

For instance: "Japan's skiing officials have been read the riot act after one of their snowboarders wore his Vancouver Olympic uniform in 'hip hop' style." (Reuters, Mar. 15, 2010)

Prev
goto slidegoto slidegoto slidegoto slidegoto slidegoto slidegoto slidegoto slidegoto slidegoto slide
Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!
April 28, 2015
portmanteau Hear it
a word formed by the blending of words
How to use a word that (literally) drives some people nuts.
Test your vocab with our fun, fast game
Ailurophobia, and 9 other unusual fears