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call names

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Verbally abuse someone, use offensive epithets, as in The teacher told the children to stop calling names. This idiom was first recorded in the late 1600s but Shakespeare used a similar expression earlier in Richard III (1:3): “That thou hadst called me all these bitter names.”

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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