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Chinese water torture (uncountable)

  1. A form of torture in which water is repetitively dripped onto the forehead of a victim who is restrained.
    • 2002, Greg Emmanuel, Extreme Encounters, →ISBN:
      It has come to be known as Chinese water torture, but was actually invented by a sixteenth-century Italian lawyer named Hippolytus de Marsiliis.
    • 2006, Jacqueline Pearce, The Truth About Rats (and Dogs), →ISBN, page 1:
      The plunk of the keys was beginning to feel like Chinese water torture, each note a painful drip. Is that a real thing? Chinese water torture, I mean.
    • 2007, Dan Clark, The Thrill of Teaching, →ISBN, page 61:
      My name is General Robinson Risner. I was the highest-ranking prisoner-of-war in the Vietnam War. I spent seven years locked up in solitary confinement. I was tortured beyond belief. I limp because of it. Today I still have a hole in the front of my skull from the Chinese water torture inflicted on me.
    • 2010, Erin Barrett & ‎Jack Mingo, Just Curious About History, Jeeves, →ISBN, page 220:
      Is it true that a person really went crazy when subjected to the ancient practice of Chinese water torture?
  2. (by analogy) Any repeated irritation that builds to deliver cumulative damage.
    • 1994, James Bovard, Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty, →ISBN, page 162:
      The growth of subsidies is a Chinese water torture on individual liberty.
    • 2007, Theresa Alan, Getting Married, →ISBN, page 8:
      The end wasn't about money, nobody had an affair, and no firearms were involved. I think what I learned from the experience is that if there are things that bother you before you get married and you can't even discuss them, can't even talk about how to change or deal with whatever issues are going on, run. It was an exercise in Chinese water torture for me.
    • 2011, Alun Carter & ‎Nicholas Bishop, Seeing Red: Twelve Tumultuous Years in Welsh Rugby, →ISBN:
      Compared to Hansen's own blitzkrieg appointment, it was a drawn-out affair, like some kind of political Chinese water torture.