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take a shellacking

Be soundly beaten or defeated, as in Our team took quite a shellacking last night. Why being coated with shellac should suggest defeat is not clear. [Slang; c. 1930]

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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.