To beat a dead horse means to bring up a previously settled issue. Any further discussion on it might be seen as pointless because the issue was already talked about before.
The Origin of ‘Beating a Dead Horse’:
There are several phrases and sayings in use today that originated from horse racing. It is possible that this one also comes from it. How so? Well, during a horse race, a jockey usually has access to a riding crop, which kind of looks like a miniature whip. The jockey uses the riding crop to hit or “beat” the horse (typically on the thigh, I believe) for purpose of getting them to run faster.
While there is controversy involved with how horses are treated during races, there is a purpose to “beating” a horse during this activity—more speed. However, what would be the point of beating a dead horse? There wouldn’t be one; it’d be pointless! So while beating a living horse serves a purpose, beating a dead one would be futile.
Anyways, this saying dates back to at least the year 1859. A form of it makes an appearance in the London newspaper Watchman And Wesleyan Advertiser. There’s an article from the newspaper that reads:
“It was notorious that Mr.Bright was dissatisfied with his winter reform campaign and rumor said that he had given up his effort with the exclamation that it was like flogging a dead horse.”
The word ‘flogging’ is just another word for beating.
- Why do you insist on beating a dead horse by bringing up these old problems of ours?
- Blake wanted to debate with his friends about which of the two cars had better gas mileage, but they said the argument would be like beating a dead horse.