Reading the riot act

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Reading the riot act : Phrases


To complain or lecture loudly and with angry emotion.


Upset about his neighbour's loud music at 3:00 A.M., Smith knocked on the door and proceeded to read the riot act to them.


Reading the riot act used to be a literal event. Bobbies in Britain used to read a prescribed proclamation, known as the Riot Act (1714), before they could break up or arrest a crowd. The Riot Act made it unlawful for a dozen or more people to gather for riotous or illegal purposes and was used in a fashion similar to the Miranda Rights in the U.S.

The Bobbies would approach the crowd, read the Riot Act aloud: Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons assembled immediately to disperse themselves and peacefully to depart to their habitations or to their lawful business. If the crowd didn't disperse, they were arrested.

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