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

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There are two well-known theories about how this phrase came about, neither of which is backed up by any type of real evidence nor space they that plausible. First, is the thieves offered to pull at people’s legs to trip them. When the victim was on the ground, the thieves would have ample chance to plunder them. While the is an interesting story, the plausibility is low and the details that the origin adjust too much to be taken seriously. Some civilization say that this occurred in the pass out “medieval markets” or “Victorian London,” while rather give an exact date—say, 1882—with confidence. Unfortunately, the lack of any documented proof of this origin theory renders it nothing an ext than a cool guess.

The second origin theory has to do with executions by suspension hanging at Tyburn in England. It’s believed that world were periodically hired to cave on to the victim’s legs to give them a faster death. Suspension hanging commonly results in a lot slower death than long drop hanging, and also the extra load on the victim’s legs might potentially make the rope mercifully occupational a small faster. However, this concept is additionally discounted as, among other reasons, there is no recorded evidence of just how the expression made the leap from “hanging” to “joke/lying.” Plus, over there is no document of the phrase during the time suspension hangings to be popular. As numerous important figures, among others, experienced fatality by suspension hanging, one would certainly think the expression ought to have appeared in at least one that the reports of the deaths.

So once did this phrase an initial appear? The earliest document of it showed up in the diary that James Gallatin in 1821, but there is a caveat together you’ll quickly see:

Mr. Adams is no a man of an excellent force or intelligence, yet his own opinion of self is immense. I really think father, in a hidden way, pulls his leg. I understand he thinks tiny of his talents and less of his manners.

This diary was published in 1914 together The Diary of James Gallatin, Secretary to Albert Gallatin, a an excellent peace maker, 1813-1827, however it is thought to be a fake. That was put together by Gallatin’s grandson who is assumed to have comprised much that what remained in it. So us can’t reliably say the “pulls his leg” was really roughly in 1821, and also it more than likely wasn’t provided the numerous decades between this instance of the phrase and the next documented instance.

As because that that, it showed up in The Newark daily Advocate in Ohio in 1883:

It is currently the correct point to say that a guy who has actually been telling you preposterous lies has been ‘pulling her leg.’

This explanation appears to imply that the phrase was relatively new at the time.

Now, one more much much less popular an interpretation for the phrase that was likewise around in ~ this phase of the video game was “to questioning a person for something, especially money.” native this, probably it to be the case that the originally had to perform with who trying to trick you into providing them money, often by lie to perform it. And perhaps the leg component of the expression came about based top top that as soon as someone was doing this, they to be metaphorically pulling at one’s trouser pockets to gain said funds in them. That knows? I simply made the up, which means it has actually just around as much proof backing that up as the aforementioned theories.

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In the end, we don’t know exactly what this phrase’s beginnings are, however we do understand as far as any kind of evidence is concerned, the seemingly didn’t have actually anything to do with thef or executions, and also probably no trouser pockets either. It could not also have noþeles to perform with actual legs- over there are various other leg associated phrases that are known to no have had actually anything to do with physics legs. And also no, I’m not pulling her leg v this one.

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Bonus Facts:

An expansion of “pulling someone’s leg” is “pull the various other one, it’s acquired bells on.” the the victim’s method of saying “I understand you’re joking, I’m not stupid.” This days to the 1960s, and also the bells are supposedly a recommendation to jesters.Another contempt murky foot related phrase is “costing an arm and a leg.” This expression originated during world War II, and it is more than likely a combination of various other phrases prefer “I would give my best arm for…” which expected you really, really want something. Provided the time period, it could also be a reference to the soldiers who had, in fact, lost arms and also legs, which to be a reminder of the high price they paid because that the war. The could also simply average that if someone was to sell a limb, the would just be because that a large amount of money.To “shake a leg” method to “hurry up.” This expression was coined in the early 1900s, as shown by a 1904 post in the new York magazine which explicitly specifies the meaning. Originally, the phrase had actually to do with dancing and dancers. An 1863 advertising for a round stated: “Nearly every male in town able come shake a leg has purchased a ticket.” native there, the phrase progressed into “hurry up,” more than likely something to do with dancers’ quick feet.Another “limb” phrase is “to go the end on a limb,” yet this has nothing to perform with person limbs. Rather, together you probably currently guessed, it needs to do with climbing trees. If friend go the end on a limb on a tree, you’re putting yourself in a precarious position, which is regarded the phrase’s meaning: “to put yourself in a disadvantaged position in assistance of something.”Expand because that References