1. To strip off the skin or outer covering of.
2. To strip of money or goods; fleece.
3. To whip or lash.
4. To assail with stinging criticism; excoriate.
The papers mean #4 when they say flay, not #1, the way I understand the term, and which is how most people, I think, understand the term. As far as I can remember, it was not a popular term till the eighties. Whence its popularity? Maybe there is a whole S and M level to public discourse that I am unconscious of. Think of it. A national obsession with “twatcha,” the skin that needs to made ‘fair and lovely.’ The brides who are homely but ‘wheatish’ in complexion. Tales of British colonial brutality that often involve whipping with ‘hunters.’ My own experience in school with corporal punishment for not doing homework. Brides being killed with attacks on their “twatcha” with kerosine and a match. The resurgence in separatist violence in the eighties in the Punjab and Kashmir. I wonder what the connections are.