give someone the business

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give someone the business

  1. (idiomatic, dated) To treat someone harshly or in a wrongful manner, such as by abusing, deceiving, or manipulating.
    • 1951, Mickey Spillane, One Lonely Night (1980 Penguin edition):
      “I hope you're right, Mike. I hope you aren't giving me the business.”
      I grinned at him. “The only one who can get shafted is me.”
    • 1965, Wilbur Smith, The Dark of the Sun (2008 edition):
      "They wouldn't waste the women. I'd guess they've got them up at the hotel, taking it in turn to give them the business. Four women only – they won't last till morning."
  2. (idiomatic, dated) To harangue, criticize vigorously, berate, or ridicule someone.
    • 1945 Nov. 26, "Religion: Canterbury Red," Time:
      The Red Dean's utterances, as usual, got on some people's nerves. The irreverent New York Daily News gave him the business, in a full-column editorial, ending; "Nobody curbs these whizbangs in the United States or England, where they are free to be as nutty as their capacities will permit."
    • 1973, Rita Mae Brown, Rubyfruit Jungle (1977 Randlom House edition), ISBN 9780553278866, p. 149:
      Then the kids at school started giving me the business about being a fairy, called me the African Queen.
    • 1982, Elmore Leonard, Cat Chaser, ISBN 9780688163419 [1]:
      They'd switch frequencies and there she'd be like Tokyo Rose, giving them the business. “What you doing here, Marines? You come to kill us? Why? We haven't done nothing to you.”