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Wacky question, April 12: The Third Degree

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Rocky Mountain News

Wacky question, April 12

April 12, 2005

Where did the expression about giving someone the third degree come from? - Jan, Denver

We've answered that before, but it's been awhile. The expression, which describes harsh questioning of a prisoner to elicit information or a confession, probably is related to the Freemasons, an international secret society. Achieving the third, or highest, degree of Freemasonry requires that the applicant pass grueling tests of proficiency. Since the 1890s, the third degree has been broadened to include any intense questioning, according to the Henry Holt Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins.

Have a stumper? Call the Wacky Questions Research Center, 303-892-5225, or e-mail [email protected] RockyMountainNews.com. Wacky Questions appears Monday through Friday.

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