A good hiding
What's the meaning of the phrase 'A good hiding'?
A good hiding is a severe thrashing.
What's the origin of the phrase 'A good hiding'?
A good hiding is one of the phrases that we infer the meaning of without really understanding. A can remember at school being threatened with a good hiding by the teachers and working out pretty quickly from the context what was being said. It never occurred to me to wonder why hiding, which everyone knew meant 'concealing oneself from view', should be used in a phrase meaning a severe thrashing.
We rarely have use for it now but the verb hiding was used in the 18th century to mean 'flay - remove the hide from'. This wasn't in the sense of beating but of removing a hide of an animal during slaughter. This use of the word is found in
In 1757 the English poet William Thompson published a record of how the British Navy was provisioned - The Royal Navy-men's Advocate, which included an account of ox slaughtering:
They are neither sufficiently blooded, nor dressed in any tolerable manner more than hiding.
From the early 19th century hiding began to be used to mean thrashing, especially thrashing sever enough to remove the victim's skin. It was that meaning that Basil Fawlty had in mind when he threatened and later thrashed his ailing car.
An early example of the use of hiding to mean thrashing is found in The [London] Times, October 1803:
At the bar of the Plough alehouse, when the deceased had challenged the prisoner, and threatened to give him a good hiding.
That's the earliest example of 'a good hiding' in print that I have found.
In the sporting world, when a contestant is facing a beating with nothing to show for it, they are said to be on a hiding to nothing.