Red Tape




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Red Tape : Phrases



Meaning:

Rigid or mechanical adherence to bureaucratic rules and regulations especially those involving unnecessary paperwork.


Example:







Origin:

Legal and official documents have been bound with red tape since the 17th century and continue to be so. The first reference I can find to this practice is the 1696-1715 Maryland Laws:

"The Map upon the Backside thereof sealed with his Excellency's Seal at Arms on a Red Cross with Red Tape."

We now usually mean fussy or unnecessary bureaucracy when we refer to 'red tape'. The first record I have of it being used in that sense is from The pleader's guide, 1796. This spoof verse, purporting to be the work of John Surrebutter (a deceased barrister) was a satire on the fussiness of English law. It includes the lines:

Nor would the Fates... Cut the red-tape of thy years.

This is part-way towards a metaphorical usage of the term, albeit still clearly referring to actual lawyer's red-tape. The first entirely figurative usage of 'red-tape' that I can find is in Edward Bulwer-Lytton in Alice, or the Mysteries, 1838:

"The men of more dazzling genius began to sneer at the red-tape minister as a mere official manager of details."





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