beat the living daylights out of, to

beat the living daylights out of

Also, knock or lick the hell or living daylights or shit or stuffing or tar out of . Administer a merciless beating to; also, defeat soundly. For example, The coach said he'd like to beat the living daylights out of the vandals who damaged the gym floor , or Bob knocked the stuffing out of that bully, or He swore he'd beat the tar out of anyone who tried to stop him. These colloquial phrases nearly always denote a physical attack. In the first, daylights originally (1700) meant "the eyes" and later was extended to any vital ( living) body organ. Thus Henry Fielding wrote, in Amelia (1752): "If the lady says another such words to me ... I will darken her daylights" (that is, put out her eyes). Hell here is simply a swear word used for emphasis. The more vulgar shit and the politer stuffing allude simply to knocking out someone's insides. Tar is more puzzling but has been so used since the late 1800s.
See also: beat, daylight, living, of, out

beat the living daylights out of, to

To punish severely, to thrash. This cliché is in effect a colorful elaboration of to beat someone up, an American locution dating from about 1900. The word daylights was a nineteenth-century American colloquialism for one’s vital organs. “That’ll shake the daylights out of us,” wrote Emerson Bennett (Mike Fink, 1852). Another writer referred to “pulling out” a mule’s daylights by beating it, and mystery writers of the early twentieth century sometimes had their characters “shoot the daylights” out of someone. Earlier British versions are to beat black and blue (Shakespeare), beat to a jelly (Smollett), and the equally hyperbolic beat to a pulp. Another American synonym is to beat the tar out of, which unlike the other fairly graphic equivalents is more puzzling, but has been used since about 1800.
See also: beat, daylight, living, out
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