Meaning of Idiom ‘Play Fast and Loose’
To play fast and loose with something or someone is to do what one wants in a careless, irresponsible, thoughtless, deceitful or immoral way.
The expression is almost always followed by the word with and an object. Often, the object is “the truth” as in “he was known for playing fast and loose with the truth.” The idiom’s use can be best described as describing someone being dishonest in regards to something or someone.
“George played fast and loose with our parent’s money and they ended up losing their home.”
“The current administration is known for playing fast and loose with the facts.”
The idiom most likely originated with a dishonest 16th-century game from the called Fast and Loose, which is said to be have been introduced by gypsies and was often a swindle at fairgrounds. It seems to have been the game that was originally called Prick at the Loop (or belt or girdle).
Here, the word fast does not refer to speed but to “being fixed” (held fast) while the word loose retains its most common meaning so that the two words are opposites.
In the game, a belt, garter, or another piece of material was cleverly folded into figure-8 loops and the punter, or game-player, based on a wager, had to guess which loop would hold fast when a stick was poked into it, as is demonstrated in the YouTube video below. The swindler or “cony-catcher” would actually be in control of which loop held fast and which loop was loose, and so be in control of whether the punter won or lost.
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