under the whip

Discuss word origins and meanings.
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under the whip

Post by Archived Topic » Thu Nov 18, 2004 6:17 pm

What's it mean? I haven't encountered this phrase before until a few days ago online. The context of the photo description was confusing, so it's hard to tell.


Submitted by Ben slayton (Kyoto - Japan)

Ben, I’ll give you the meaning and derivation of what I consider to be the standard meaning of the expression. But it might have helped if you gave the context of the photo, since your usage might be one that I’m not familiar with.

To be UNDER THE WHIP began (but difficult to say exactly when) as meaning to literally be under the whip of a master or overseer as a slave or animal might be. “In draught work the laziest or worst horse is on the off-side, under the whip . . .”—‘Bulletin’ (Sydney), 17 Dec. 1898. In Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) by Harriet Beecher Stowe Uncle Tom was said to have “endured a martyr’s death under the whip of Simon Legree [the brutal plantation owner].”

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) in his A Treatise on Parents and Children has a chapter titled ‘Under the Whip’ in which he discusses the literal practice of flogging: “ . . . From children and animals it extended to slaves and criminals . . . ”

Over time, however, the expression also came to be used figuratively (‘under the whip of law,’ ‘under the whip of necessity,’ . . .) as meaning under strict, rigid, severe, or harsh control, under the thumb of a taskmaster, overseer, boss, parent, etc. “Insurance Industry to Come Under the Whip: Factors like crime, AIDS, increased competition and proposed legislative changes are kicking in to make life more difficult for the institutions that cover your life, health or property. . . . . DCR insurance analyst Paul Gonzalves says the insurance industry could also come under the whip.”—Business Times, 15 March 1998

Ken G – July 26, 2004
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