Red Tape - Origin???

What is the origin of “red tape”, and how has it come to equate to a universal description of bureaucracy?

  • Jinx

If memory serves, lawmakers in the 1700s (or their clerks) would roll up documents, and secure the rolls with ribbons. Different colors may have had varying significance. Red stands out, so no doubt was it was used for important papers. Red ribbons all over the place naturally leads to “red tape” as a reference to bureaucracy in action.

Easy one:

Merriam-Webster gives the same derivation:

The jump from that to the general usage is pretty straightforward

Never mind the past tense. I have plenty of actual red tape around files on my desk right this very moment.

Only it’s kind of purplish really. But red enough to leave no doubt about the origin of the term.