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take to the cleaners



Alternative formsEdit

  • take to the cleaner's (This is the only form in some dictionaries[1] and the traditionally only correct form since the word is in fact singular, not plural, as can be seen with forms such as go to the doctor's, which cannot be reinterpreted as plural.)


take (someone) to the cleaners

  1. (idiomatic) To take a significant quantity of a person's money or valuables, through overcharging, litigation, unfavorable investing, gambling, fraud, etc. (humorous way of saying older expression clean out)
    • 1934 Oct. 25, "Dizzy and Daffy Begin Careers in Vaudeville," The Washington Reporter, p. 12 (retrieved 5 August 2013):
      Dizzy refused to pose with a blonde chorine clad only in step-ins. "No sir," exploded Dizzy. ". . . [M]y wife would take me to the cleaners if she saw a picture like that."
    • 1984 Oct. 15, "Tax and Spend," Time (retrieved 5 August 2013):
      George Bush paid the IRS $198,000 in back taxes and interest, and he is planning to sue, if necessary, to get his money back. "I'm the guy that's been taken to the cleaners," Bush said last week.
    • 2007 Feb. 4, Scott Shane and Ron Nixon, "U.S. contractors becoming a virtual fourth branch of government," New York Times (retrieved 5 August 2013):
      "Billions of dollars are being squandered, and the taxpayer is being taken to the cleaners," Waxman said.