give someone what for

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give someone what for

  1. (idiomatic, slang) To punish; to rebuke.
    • 2007, Wilbur Smith, The Sound of Thunder, page 135:
      She gave him what for all right. But you could see she was ever so pleased and she went around telling everybody about it.
    • 2002, Joss Whedon, "The Ballad of Jayne Cobb" in "Jaynestown", Firefly.
      He robbed from the rich, and he gave to the poor / Stood up to The Man and he gave him what for.
    • 1912, Edward Burke, Bachelor's Buttons: The Candid Confessions of a Shy Bachelor, page 133:
      ... 'e gived 'em up, an' repented somethin' horrid — there still bein' the buns to come — but Miss Soapy she gave 'im what- for-proper, she did!