language change and slang

Phrase origins: reading the riot act

Photo courtesy of Apple Inc.This week’s ‘language in new media’ post looks at the origins of the English phrase reading the riot act.

Now understood as a scolding or telling off, usually administered by parents or teachers to unruly children, being read the riot act used to have far more serious connotations.

Listen to excerpts and view contemporary artists’ impressions  of 18th and 19th century riots via the BBC’s Voices from the Old Bailey.

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Caroline Short

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