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Carpet in culture and figurative expressions



A mythical magic carpet
A mythical magic carpet
There are many stories about magic carpets, legendary flying carpets that can be used to transport people who are on it instantaneously or quickly to their destination. Disney's Aladdin depicts a magic carpet found by Aladdin and Abu in the Cave of Wonders while trying to find Genie's lamp. Aladdin and Jasmine ride on him to go on a ride around the world. The term "[m]agic carpet [is] first attested [in] 1816. From the 16th century to the 19th century, the term "carpet" was used "...as an adjective often with a tinge of contempt, when used of men (as in carpet-knight, 1570s)", which meant a man who was associated with "...luxury, ladies' boudoirs, and drawing rooms". Rolling out the red carpet is an expression which means to welcome a guest lavishly and handsomely. In some cases, an actual red carpet is used for VIPs and celebrities to walk on, such as at the Cannes Film Festival and when foreign dignitaries are welcomed to a country.

In 1820s British servant slang, to "carpet" someone means to call them for a reprimand. To be called on the carpet means to be summoned for a serious reason, typically a scolding reprimand; this usage dates from 1900. A stronger variant of this expression, to be "hauled on the carpet", implies an even sterner reprimand. Carpet bombing is a type of bombing from airplanes which developed in the 20th century in which an entire city is bombed (rather than precise strikes on military targets). The slang expression "laugh at the carpet" means to vomit on the floor (especially a carpeted floor). The expression "on the carpet" refers to a matter which is under discussion or consideration. The term "carpet muncher" is a derogatory slang term for a lesbian woman; this expression is first attested in 1992.

The Carpet Seller, a Royal Doulton figurine
The Carpet Seller, a Royal Doulton figurine
The term carpet bag, which literally refers to a suitcase made from a piece of carpet, is used in several figurative contexts. The term gained a popular usage after the American Civil War to refer to carpetbaggers, Northerners who moved to the South after the war, especially during the Reconstruction era (1865–1877). Carpetbaggers allegedly politically manipulated and controlled former Confederate states for financial and power gains. In modern usage in the U.S., the term is sometimes used derisively to refer to a politician who runs for public office in an area where he or she does not have deep community ties, or has lived only for a short time. In the United Kingdom, the term was adopted to refer informally to those who join a mutual organization, such as a building society, in order to force it to demutualize, that is, to convert into a joint stock company, solely for personal financial gain.

Cutting the rug is a slang term for dancing which originated in 1942. The use of the term "rug" as an informal term for a "toupee" (man's wig) is theater slang from 1940. The term "sweep [something] under the rug" or "sweep [something] under the carpet" figuratively refers to situations where a person or organization is hiding something embarrassing or negative; this use was first recorded in 1953. The figurative expression "pull the rug out from under (someone)", meaning to "suddenly deprive of important support" is first attested to in 1936, in American English. A related figurative expression used centuries earlier was "cut the grass under (one's) feet", which is attested to in the 1580s. A "rugrat" or "rug-rat" is a slang term for a baby or child, first attested in 1968. The expression "snug as a bug in a rug" means "wrapped up tight, warm, and comfortable". To "lie like a rug" means "to tell lies shamelessly". The expression "pull the rug out (from under someone)" means "to make someone or someone's plans fall through" or "to upset someone's plans".

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