For those who aren’t acquainted with the phrase, when someone says, “You should be pulling mine leg!” they generally mean, “You need to be joking/teasing/making something up.” extremely popular in the 20th century, the beginning of this phrase is tho something of an enigma come etymologists.

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There room two famous theories about how this expression came about, neither of which is backed up by any real evidence nor space they the plausible. First, is the thieves offered to traction at people’s legs to pilgrimage them. Once the victim was on the ground, the thieves would have ample possibility to rob them. While it is an amazing story, the plausibility is low and also the details that the origin adjust too lot to be taken seriously. Some human being say the this taken place in the vague “medieval markets” or “Victorian London,” while others give an exact date—say, 1882—with confidence. Unfortunately, the absence of any kind of documented evidence of this beginning theory provides it nothing much more than a cool guess.

The 2nd origin theory has to do with executions by suspension hanging at Tyburn in England. It’s thought that world were occasionally hired to hang on come the victim’s foot to give them a much faster death. Suspension hanging generally results in a lot slower fatality than long drop hanging, and also the extra weight 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 recorded evidence of how the phrase made the leap native “hanging” to “joke/lying.” Plus, there is no record of the phrase during the time suspension hangings were popular. As many important figures, among others, experienced fatality by suspension hanging, one would think the phrase ought to have showed up in at the very least one the the reports the the deaths.

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

Mr. Adams is no a guy of an excellent force or intelligence, but his own opinion of self is immense. I really think father, in a concealed way, pulls his leg. I recognize he thinks tiny of his talents and also less the his manners.

This diary was published in 1914 together The Diary that James Gallatin, Secretary to Albert Gallatin, a good peace maker, 1813-1827, yet it is thought to be a fake. The was placed together by Gallatin’s grandson who is assumed to have comprised much the what remained in it. So we can’t reliably say that “pulls his leg” to be really roughly in 1821, and also it probably wasn’t provided the many decades in between this instance of the phrase and 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 actually been telling you preposterous lies has been ‘pulling her leg.’

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

Now, one more much much less popular definition for the expression that was likewise around at this phase of the video game was “to asking a human being for something, especially money.” from this, probably it to be the case that it originally had to perform with someone trying to trick friend into offering them money, often by lie to perform it. And also perhaps the leg part of the phrase came about based ~ above that once someone was doing this, they to be metaphorically pulling in ~ one’s trouser pockets to acquire said accumulation in them. That knows? I just made that up, which way it has actually just around as much proof backing it up together the aforementioned theories.

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In the end, we don’t know exactly what this phrase’s beginnings are, however we do know as much as any type of evidence is concerned, it seemingly didn’t have actually anything to carry out with theif or executions, and also probably not trouser pockets either. It might not also have noþeles to perform with really legs- over there are various other leg connected phrases that are well-known to not have had actually anything to do with physical legs. And no, I’m no pulling your leg through this one.

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Bonus Facts:

An extension of “pulling someone’s leg” is “pull the other one, it’s acquired bells on.” it’s the victim’s means of saying “I understand you’re joking, I’m not stupid.” This dates to the 1960s, and also the bells are supposedly a reference to jesters.Another contempt murky foot related phrase is “costing one arm and a leg.” This expression originated during world War II, and also it is most likely a combination of various other phrases choose “I would provide my ideal arm for…” which expected you really, really wanted something. Provided the time period, that could likewise be a referral to the soldiers that had, in fact, lost arms and legs, which to be a reminder of the high price they paid for the war. It could also simply mean that if someone was to offer a limb, it would just be because that a huge amount the money.To “shake a leg” means to “hurry up.” This expression was coined in the early 1900s, as confirmed by a 1904 post in the new York magazine which explicitly defines the meaning. Originally, the phrase had to execute with dancing and dancers. One 1863 advertisement for a round stated: “Nearly every man in town able to shake a leg has actually purchased a ticket.” from there, the phrase evolved into “hurry up,” probably something to execute with dancers’ rapid feet.Another “limb” phrase is “to go the end on a limb,” however this has actually nothing to do with person limbs. Rather, as you probably currently guessed, it needs to do v climbing trees. If friend go the end on a limb on a tree, you’re putting 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