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For those that aren’t familiar with the phrase, when someone says, “You need to be pulling mine leg!” they commonly mean, “You need to be joking/teasing/making miscellaneous up.” very popular in the 20th century, the origin of this expression is still something of an enigma come etymologists.

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There space two famous theories around how this expression came about, neither of i beg your pardon is donate up by any type of real evidence nor room they the plausible. First, is the thieves provided to pull at people’s foot to trip them. As soon as the victim was on the ground, the thieves would have actually ample possibility to plunder them. While it is an exciting story, the plausibility is low and also the details that the origin readjust too lot to it is in taken seriously. Some world say the this taken place in the pass out “medieval markets” or “Victorian London,” while rather give specific date—say, 1882—with confidence. Unfortunately, the lack of any documented proof of this origin theory renders it nothing more than a fanciful guess.

The 2nd origin theory needs to do v executions by suspension hanging at Tyburn in England. It’s believed that people were sometimes hired to hang on to the victim’s foot to give them a faster death. Suspension hanging frequently results in a lot slower death than lengthy drop hanging, and also the extra load on the victim’s legs can potentially do the rope mercifully occupational a little faster. However, this concept is additionally discounted as, among other reasons, there is no documented evidence of exactly how the phrase made the leap indigenous “hanging” come “joke/lying.” Plus, over there is no record of the phrase during the time suspension hangings to be popular. As many important figures, among others, experienced fatality by suspension hanging, one would think the phrase ought to have appeared in at least one that the reports of the deaths.

So once did this phrase first appear? The earliest record of it showed up in the diary the James Gallatin in 1821, however there is a caveat as you’ll soon see:


Mr. Adams is no a man of an excellent force or intelligence, but his very own opinion of himself is immense. I really think father, in a concealed way, traction his leg. I understand he thinks little of his talents and also less the his manners.

This diary was released in 1914 together The Diary that James Gallatin, Secretary come Albert Gallatin, a great peace maker, 1813-1827, however it is assumed to be a fake. It was put together by Gallatin’s grandson who is believed to have comprised much of what remained in it. So we can’t reliably say the “pulls his leg” to be really approximately in 1821, and also it most likely wasn’t given the plenty of decades between this circumstances of the phrase and also the next documented instance.

As for that, it appeared in The Newark day-to-day Advocate in Ohio in 1883:

It is now the correct thing to say the a male who has been informing you preposterous lies has actually been ‘pulling her leg.’

This explanation seems to indicate that the phrase was relatively new at the time.

Now, an additional much less popular meaning for the expression that was likewise around at this stage of the video game was “to ask a human for something, specifically money.” native this, maybe it to be the situation that that originally had to execute with someone trying come trick friend into giving them money, frequently by lied to execute it. And also perhaps the leg component of the phrase came about based on that once someone was doing this, they were metaphorically pulling in ~ one’s trouser pockets to get said funds in them. That knows? I simply made the up, which method it has just about as much evidence backing the up together the previously mentioned theories.

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In the end, we don’t know precisely what this phrase’s beginnings are, but we do understand as much as any type of evidence is concerned, the seemingly didn’t have actually anything to carry out with thieves or executions, and probably not trouser pockets either. It might not also have anything to execute with really legs- there are other leg related phrases the are known to no have had actually anything to perform with physics legs. And also no, I’m not pulling her leg v this one.

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An extension of “pulling someone’s leg” is “pull the other one, it’s gained bells on.” that the victim’s means of speak “I recognize you’re joking, I’m not stupid.” This dates to the 1960s, and also the bells space supposedly a recommendation to jesters.Another slightly murky foot related expression is “costing one arm and also a leg.” This expression originated during world War II, and also it is more than likely a mix of various other phrases choose “I would offer my best arm for…” which meant you really, really wanted something. Given the time period, that could likewise be a recommendation to the soldiers who had, in fact, lost arms and legs, which was a reminder of the high price they paid because that the war. That could also simply mean that if someone was to market a limb, the would only be because that a huge amount that money.To “shake a leg” method to “hurry up.” This phrase was coined in the at an early stage 1900s, as confirmed by a 1904 post in the brand-new York newspaper which explicitly specifies the meaning. Originally, the phrase had actually to execute with dancing and dancers. An 1863 advertising for a sphere stated: “Nearly every male in city able come shake a leg has purchased a ticket.” from there, the phrase progressed into “hurry up,” most likely something to execute with dancers’ rapid feet.Another “limb” phrase is “to go out on a limb,” yet this has nothing to carry out with human being limbs. Rather, together you probably already guessed, it needs to do through climbing trees. If girlfriend go out on a limb on a tree, you’re placing yourself in a precarious position, i beg your pardon is related to the phrase’s meaning: “to put yourself in a disadvantaged place in assistance of something.”Expand for References