Discussion Forum

Please consider registering

Log In Register

Register | Lost password?
Advanced Search

— Forum Scope —


— Match —


— Forum Options —


Wildcard usage:
*  matches any number of characters    %  matches exactly one character

Minimum search word length is 4 characters - maximum search word length is 84 characters

Topic RSS
Pulling one's leg
When does meaning trump actual word usage?
Topic Rating: 0 (0 votes) 
Forum Posts: 620
Member Since:

The topic or a variant of it is first in print in 1888 or 1867, respectively. But, Genesis 25:26 says, "After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau's heel [and, by word picture, pulling Esau's leg]; so he was named Jacob." NIV. The NIV also has a footnote, "26 Jacob means he grasps the heel (figuratively, he deceives)."

Ignoring shades of meaning between deceive and fool, it seems perfectly logical to me that while the words are slightly different, the real origin of linking pulling one's leg and fooling someone is much older than the link above indicates.

Does this cast doubt on the real origin of pulling one's leg?


New River, AZ, USA
Forum Posts: 752
Member Since:

Interesting question. Ngrams validates your time frame. The etymology may have its origin in Genesis, but popular use of the metaphor emerges ca. 1900.


Forum Posts: 427
Member Since:
They are far too quick with the word 'originated' in that link, because at best what they have there are some early known uses, and only printed ones at that.
What you're suggesting, though tantalizing, seems somehow unsatisfying, what with the 'heel' seeming not like a 'leg' at all, and then how strenuous the association to deceiving, going from the infant to the adult, that is, if one will first subscribe to that attribution of the biblical Jacob (which a great many don't, who also will readily point to other plausible symbolisms to account for the 'heel').
But  without a source to explain it, the idiom seems that much more forced, even borderline nonsensical-- defeat, mistreat, tease, any suchlike, should come to mind far ahead of deceive.  Which makes  the biblical proposition that much more tantalizing.
Forum Timezone: America/Los_Angeles

Most Users Ever Online: 1147

Currently Online:
5 Guest(s)

Currently Browsing this Page:
1 Guest(s)

Top Posters:

Heimhenge: 752

Bob Bridges: 676

Ron Draney: 624

RobertB: 427

tromboniator: 373

Robert: 366

Dick: 358

samaphore: 319

dilettante: 287

Raffee: 238

Member Stats:

Guest Posters: 605

Members: 2999

Moderators: 1

Admins: 5

Forum Stats:

Groups: 1

Forums: 1

Topics: 3104

Posts: 16331

Newest Members: katma, wordwonderer, Abbyabi098, Gilliflower, jodymask, ernestomalley, SnorePhat, vernal, ToddThompson, niamhk

Moderators: Grant Barrett (1420)

Administrators: Martha Barnette (828), Grant Barrett (1420), EmmettRedd (620), Glenn (1585), timfelten (0)