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- (idiomatic) Something which cannot be tampered with, or criticized, for fear of public outcry. A person, institution, belief system, etc. which, for no reason other than the demands of established social etiquette or popular opinion, should be accorded respect or reverence, and not touched, handled or examined too closely.
- 1965 December, Phil Ochs, “That Was The Year That Weren't”, in Cavalier:
- Many sacred cows were milked dry in an unbelievable series of outrageous events.
- 1967, Paul Krassner, The Realist, issue 74, May 1967, front page tagline:
- Irreverence is our only sacred cow.
- 2022 January 12, Sir Michael Holden, “Reform of the workforce or death by a thousand cuts?”, in RAIL, number 948, page 24:
- In my opinion, in order to save serious amounts of money, a number of 'sacred cows' will need slaying.
something which cannot be tampered with