Chew someone out is an idiom. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, 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. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common saying chew someone out, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.
To chew someone out means to scold him severely, to reprimand him, to angrily berate him. The expression to chew someone out seems to have originated in the military during World War II; the image is of someone reprimanding his subordinate in a manner that is so thorough, it feels as though that subordinate is being physically chewed on. An alternative form of this idiom involves specifying a particular body part upon which the scolder is chewing, but this term is not used in polite company. Related phrases are chews someone out, chewed someone out, chewing someone out.
His manner was that of one whose boss had chewed him out and he was on his way home to kick the dog and abuse his wife and children. (Houma Today)
“I caught Casey in the hallway after that game, and I sort of chewed him out,” Fruechte said. (Post Bulletin)
Every time I saw him, even as an adult, he would point to the ground as if I was in trouble and say get over here and then pretend to chew me out like I was still playing for him, and then smile and give me a kiss on the cheek. (Seaside Signal)