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Call on the carpet

  • The phrase call on the carpet is primarily an American idiom that has its roots in an idiom popular in the eighteenth century, though today’s meaning of call on the carpet did not come into use until the nineteenth century. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as up a creek without a paddle, don’t count your chickens, barking up the wrong tree and piece of cake, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the phrase call on the carpet, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.


     

    To call on the carpet means to reprimand someone, to be summoned before one’s boss or other superior in order to be criticized, scolded or blamed for some sort of mistake or infraction. The idiom call on the carpet has had an interesting journey. The first idiom that may be associated with this phrase is on the carpet, a term in common use in the 1700s to mean under consideration. At this time, a carpet was a thick tablecloth used on a table where business is done. The idea is that something under consideration was placed upon the carpet of the table. Then, early in the 1800 the idiom walk the carpet came into use to describe a servant being called before his mistress or master in order to be scolded or blamed for a mistake or infraction. The idea is that the servant has been called out of the kitchen with a flagstone floor, or the servants’ quarters with wooden floors, into the quarters of the master of the house where the floors are carpeted. It seems that somehow the idioms on the carpet and walk the carpet became fused in American English in the phrase call on the carpet, used as early as the 1880s. Today, the term call on the carpet may be used to describe a reprimand to anyone, from anyone, but it is usually a superior who calls a subordinate on the carpet. Related terms are calls on the carpet, called on the carpet, calling on the carpet.

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    Examples

    And call on the carpet the many Latino comedians, including celebrities such as George López and John Leguizamo, when they spew racist and sexist jokes about their own people. (The New York Daily News)

    That does not lift responsibility from any one individual, even if that person was part of the leadership — those whom we naturally call on the carpet first for anything that happens.  (The Moscow Times)

    The Democrats should shrug that off and call on the carpet top administration officials accused of misuse of tax dollars, hold oversight hearings on the dismantling of environmental regulations, and review the administration’s actions in immigration enforcement, from maintaining the world’s largest immigrant detention system (built under both parties) to apparent violations of migrants’ right to seek asylum at the border. (The Bangor Daily News)


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