third degree n.
1. (also three degrees, fourth degree) the beating up and similar physical abuse of suspects by policemen in order to extract confessions; although allegedly outlawed in the last couple of decades reality proves otherwise.
|Recollections 189: This indicates that the prisoner is going to pass a bad quarter of an hour, or what is known in police slang as ‘getting the third degree.’.|
|Boss 263: Dis Captain t’rows her d’ big chest, see! an’ says he’ll give her d’ t’ree degrees if she don’t cough up d’ tip.|
|Torchy, Private Sec. 165: He’s had the third degree good and strong [...] He won’t squeal.|
|Gay-cat 65: As soon as a bull gives him th’ third degree, a kid will toin stool an’ peach on us guns.|
|Put on the Spot 112: ‘He coughed up his guts.’ ‘I don’t believe it,’ snapped Gleason. ‘We gave him the fourth degree.’.|
|Coll. Stories (1990) 171: Then had followed a third degree — the dirty rats. His feet handcuffed together, his body suspended head-downward from an open door, hanging from the chain across his ankles.‘Prison Mass’ in|
|House of Fury (1959) 137: You think they give ’em the third degree? ... Maybe they hit ’em with a rubber hose.|
|One Lonely Night 32: In this country force is never used. The so-called third degree has been swept out.|
|Shilling for Candles (1958) 34: Have you been giving him the third degree [...] You’re police, aren’t you?|
|(con. 1961) Spend, Spend, Spend Scene 72: It’s like the third degree in this house!|
|Only Fools and Horses [TV script] You ever seen some of them detectives give someone the third degree on the telly?‘Wanted’|
|From Bondage 380: He didn’t expect me to hold up under a third degree. You know, that’s when the cops grill you, beat the hell out of you to make you confess.|
2. attrib. use of sense 1.
|Journal of the Amer. Instit. Criminal Law and Criminology I 107: In spite of the emphatic and persistent denials of the police, ‘third degree’ methods, he asserts, are generally practiced by the American police.|
|Eve. Star (Wash., DC) 6 June 39/2: We ain’t third-degree men.|
|Enormous Room (1928) 40: I was at the time innocent of third degree methods.|
|Cool Customer 126: The public expects you to get results or be fired, but if you put pressure on suspects the dear people are horrified at third degree methods.|
|Big Gold Dream 58: Third degree methods were useful, but they couldn’t beat the truth out of everybody.|
|(ref. to 1910s–20s)Interrogations, Confessions, and Entrapment 55: During these same two decades (1910s and 1920s) [...] The suspicion of third degree methods was always in the air.|
3. used fig., referring to intense questioning but devoid of physical abuse.
|Sun (NY) 27 July 40/2: Cashiers [...] have all heard of the pay-off, and when a depositer wants to draw down a lot of cash they give him the third degree.|
|Score by Innings (2004) 423: When the boss picks out a new man we give him the third degree; and if he stands the acid [...] we let him in.‘Mister Conley’|
|Enter the Saint 105: We’ll do some third degree on him later.|
|Little Men, Big World 109: If Arky wanted to tell him, he would; if not, a third degree wouldn’t help.|
|(con. 1940s) Autobiog. (1968) 149: Every time I saw Ella [...] she turned on the third degree.|
|Picture Palace 232: I didn’t come down here to get the third degree.|
|Wiseguy (2001) 60: She would start the third degree right there on the phone [...] I couldn’t stand being yelled at.|
|Guardian G2 18 Nov. 12: When I ring his agent about two pictures that claim to be of Spacey and his wife, I’m given the third degree.|
|(con. 1990s) A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun 404: Howard was given the third-degree about it all on BBC’s Newsnight.|
|(con. 1973) Johnny Porno 84: Jesus, can’t a guy have a few bucks on him without a third degree?|
4. attrib. use of sense 3.
|Door of Dread 7: I don’t quite get yuh [...] And what’s the game, anyway, wit’ all this third-degree stuff?|
|Lady in the Lake (1952) 23: I’ve had enough of your third degree tripe.|
|Loving (1978) 155: Well this was not exactly a pleasant experience Madam. More like the third degree Madam.|
|Buttons 35: My friends [...] didn’t appreciate having to go through a third degree routine to get to see me.|
|Confessions of Proinsias O’Toole 96: Towering over him in the best third degree tradition.|
|Clockers 335: The kid’s mother was supposed to be a third-degree artist.|