I saw an article recently where the author used the term "flogging a dead horse" where the term flogging was meant in the UK slang sense of "to sell".
It was accompanied by a drawing of a stuffed horse being sold at market with a sign along the lines of "fast, living horse for sale". (I can't find the article again).

Is this usage of the phrase valid? I always thought that the phrase was a slight rewording of "beating a dead horse" where "flog"/"beat" would mean to physically hit.

  • 4
    You think quite correctly. This must have been a pun (not an unclever one, either). Commented Oct 19, 2013 at 13:25
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I think the pun you're seeing has flown a little over my head :P Would you mind explaining it to me?
    – Gricey
    Commented Oct 19, 2013 at 13:28
  • Well, I don't know what the context is, but it seems pretty straightforward: take a well-known idiom and use one of the words in it in an alternative sense. The fact that it was accompanied by a cartoon just strengthens this theory: that is quite a typical type of pun in some cartoons/strips. Commented Oct 19, 2013 at 13:31
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Ah I see what you mean now. Would you mind putting all that down as an answer so that the question can be closed if no one else has any ideas in the next few hours?
    – Gricey
    Commented Oct 19, 2013 at 13:36
  • That's marketing for you!
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 19, 2013 at 13:37

1 Answer 1


It's certainly valid to say "flogging a dead horse" to mean "selling a dead horse", but "flogging a dead horse" is an idiom meaning you're doing something pointless: whipping a dead horse won't make it move any faster.

However, the drawing you saw must have been a comic making fun use of word-play by punning on two meanings of flog.

In normal use, however, you should stick the common meaning of the idiom. (But how often you do need to use the "selling a dead horse" meaning?)

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