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On page 187 of Peter Benchley’s Jaws I came across the following sentence:

“If you’d testify, you might be able to slap a loan-sharking rap on these guys.”

I can’t get the meaning of the expression in bold.

I thank you in advance for your help.

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  • I don't know this phrase, but it sounds like to give a hard and strong punishment. – Damkerng T. May 3 '14 at 11:50
  • It's an adaptation of the phrase "slapped with a lawsuit" – Mazura Sep 13 '14 at 20:23
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To slap a loan-sharking rap on [someone] can't be interpreted literally, as you might have guessed, because what is a rap, and how can it loan-shark? It makes no sense.

Let's break this phrase down.


The phrase to slap [something] on [someone] (also to slap [someone] with [something]) means to impose something on them, usually a punishment of some sort.

The officer slapped me with a $100 fine for speeding. I wasn't even going over the limit!

My boss was getting to be unbearable, so I slapped my two weeks' notice on him.

A loan-sharking rap can also be also read as a rap for loan-sharking, which other answers have indicated means "a criminal charge for loan-sharking", or "a criminal charge for charging illegally high interest rates on loans".

The payday advance companies all got hit with loan-sharking raps once the government started making them post their effective interest rates in the fine print.

Put those two together and you get the phrase you want:

If you’d testify, you might be able to slap a loan-sharking rap on these guys.

which, given the two definitions we just gave up there, becomes:

If you’d testify, you might be able to impose a criminal charge for charging illegally high interest rates on loans on these guys.

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  • Also note that you're not going to find the phrase "slapped my two weeks' notice on him" in the wild anywhere, but it's also an example. – Joe Z. May 3 '14 at 13:25
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to slap a legal charge - To charge someone with a crime. Here, "slap" has a connotation of a slap: in a manner that is expedient or unexpected; in a manner that shows the person being slapped that they don't have the power to prevent the slap. It can also mean bringing a charge that is, in some way, unfair or indirect. The FBI could not charge mob bosses with any of various violent crimes, so they finally came up with the idea that they could slap them with tax evasion.

A "bum rap" or "bad rap" means an unfair or unethical use of charging someone with a crime.

The word "rap" is sometimes referred to as "Record of Arrests and Prosecutions". This itself is one good definition of "rap", but the word "rap" pre-dates this usage in literature.

[If you’d testify, you might be able] [to slap] [a loan-sharking] [rap]

[If you’d testify, you might be able] [charge them with] [offering loans at illegally high interest rates] [that would get put on their criminal record (if they got convicted)].

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Rap is referring to the phrase "bad rap" meaning a bad name for themselves.. in this case its saying if he/she testifies, he will be seen by everyone as a loan shark which gives him a bad rap (put simply as reputation).

I think rap comes from the shortened version of rapport but im not completely sure where it originates.

Loan sharks are people who charge large interest rates on money that people have borrowed from them, usually associated with illegal activity.

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