give someone the business

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give someone the business (third-person singular simple present gives someone the business, present participle giving someone the business, simple past gave someone the business, past participle given 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[1], Penguin, published 1980:
      “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[2], published 2008:
      "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 November 26, “Religion: Canterbury Red”, in 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, 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[3], →ISBN:
      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.”