Pull Someone’s Leg

Meaning of Idiom ‘Pull Someone’s Leg’

To pull someone’s leg means to tell someone something that is not true; to try to make someone believe something that is untrue as a way of joking or playing a trick on them; to tease, trick, kid, or make fun of someone lightheartedly. 1Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms]. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.,2Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,3Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.,4Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.,5Jarvie, Gordon. Bloomsbury Dictionary of Idioms. London: Bloomsbury, 2009.

Examples Of Use

“He’s not really offended by what you said. He’s just pulling your leg.”

“You did not see Johnny Depp at McDonald’s. Stop pulling my leg.”

“I’m just pulling your leg. You don’t have to buy your own computer to work here.”

“Mary said I had to buy a ticket to go to the company Christmas party,” said Derrick. “Good one! I hope you didn’t buy one. She was just pulling your leg.”

Origin

This idiom has been used since the late 1800s. Although it is a non-serious and lighthearted idiom today, its past is said to be much darker. One claim is that the idiom is an allusion to a tactic that thieves used to rob someone. They use would use a crooked cane or another implement to hook and pull someone’s leg in order to trip them before stealing their possessions.

Another, even darker, claim is that it alludes to hangings. Authorities would have someone hang onto the victim’s legs to ensure a quick death. The former claim is perhaps more credible but neither is particularly likely to be true.

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