Are You Giving Me the Third Degree??!!

It’s been awhile since I’ve offered you background on a phrase we hear and use often. Try working this information into the conversation next time you feel somebody is giving you “the third degree.”

We’ve all been subjected to the “third degree,” even if only as a child caught doing something we denied doing. It means being questioned—interrogated, really—for a hard, drawn-out period of time.  Where did this term come from?

Could be from an 1800s police officer’s methods of grilling people.  He called that method “Third Degree Byrnes,” after himself, Thomas Byrnes.  Or maybe it’s from the fact that the criminal code contained three levels of murder.  Both have been proposed derivations.  Probably, though, it grew out of the Freemasons’ strenuous questioning when considering someone for becoming a Master Mason, which is their third degree.

No matter where the term came from, it is definitely NOT a pleasant experience to go through.

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