Idiom: Pull someone’s legOED definition: Deceive someone playfully, tease someoneExample: I thought he was being serious, but when he started laughing, I realised that he was pulling my leg.
Method To My Madness
The real roots of this idiom are somewhat unknown, however, there are two main theories about where it came from. The first suggests that it is based on thieves, who used to pull on people’s legs to trip them up. When the victim fell to the ground, the thief was then able to rob them more easily. Many people believe that this used to take place is medieval markets and Victorian London, yet, they are unable to give an exact date. Others, however, are more specific, and suggest that this happened in the 1880s. Unfortunately, there is very little concrete evidence of this behaviour and therefore it could be little more than an educated guess.
The second theory relates to suspension hanging in England. This is the process by which people were killed by being hanged by their necks with a rope. This was generally a slow and painful way to die which is why many believe that people were paid to hold onto the victim’s legs in order to make them weigh more, resulting in a quicker death. Yet, there is also no documented evidence for this theory either, and it is also difficult to see how the meaning of the phrase has changed to become what it is today. In addition, due to the large numbers of important people who were killed by suspension hanging at the time, you would expect the phrase to have appeared in at least one of the death reports, which it does not.
The first documented use of the idiom (with today’s meaning) was in the diary of James Gallatin in 1812. The main problem with this evidence is that the diary was not published until 1914, and many of the extracts and accounts were put together by Gallatin’s grandson. Thus we are unable to say for sure that the phrase was in use in 1812, or if it was a detail that was included later for the publication. The next documented usage was in 1883 in ‘The Newark Daily Advocate’ which stated, “It is now the correct thing to say that a man who has been telling you preposterous lies has been ‘pulling your leg.’” The need for a definition suggests that the expression was relatively new at the time.