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What does "Red tape" refer to?

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I liked the other answers as well, why did the authors delete them? –  Wadih M. Sep 9 '10 at 17:15
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up vote 10 down vote accepted

Definition: Official routine or procedure marked by excessive complexity which results in delay or inaction .

Example: You would not believe the red tape involved in getting the required permits.

Origin: From the red tape formerly used to bind legal documents in England

First Known Use: 1736

Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

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I wonder if ribbon cutting (as in opening a building) is in reference to red tape... –  burnt_hand Sep 9 '10 at 16:24
    
@burnt_hand: I can't imagine there being any kind of authoritative source on this, but I'd guess it's much more akin to cutting the ribbon on a gift package. –  moioci Sep 14 '10 at 5:49
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