of opera origin, many back stage ropes control curtains and other theater devices.
I needed to show them the ropes before they could work backstage.
1. To orient a person who is new to your group/neighborhood/city/and such to the rules and modes of operation of the aforementioned.
2. To rough up someone that is in - or against - your group, as a punishment for going against the creed/rules/modus operandi of your particular group (re-orienting them, as it were).
1. "Terry, since you're new to Humboldt, allow me to show you the ropes."
2. "They ratted on David. That's not our style. So we're gonna show them the ropes."