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call on the carpet

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Summon for a scolding or rebuke, as in Suspecting a leak to the press, the governor called his press secretary on the carpet. This term began as on the carpet, which in the early 1700s referred to a cloth (carpet) covering a conference table and therefore came to mean “under consideration or discussion.” In 19th-century America, however, carpet meant “floor covering,” and the expression, first recorded in 1902, alluded to being called before or reprimanded by a person rich or powerful enough to have a carpet.

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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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