The title sentence is a dialogue from "Friends" (the sitcom):

Monica has become acquainted with a man named Paul. On a date Paul says to Monica: "Since my girlfriend left me I haven't had sex with any girls for two years" (of course he was lying for attracting Monica's pity) and Monica believes him and pities him. And then one night she invites him to her home and ... Then when Monica finds that he is a liar, she tells the story to her friends. Joey (Monica's friend) says laughingly: "Of course, it was a line".

In the "a line", is "a" an article or something else? And what meaning does "it was a line" have?

2 Answers 2


I assume Joey meant that this was a pick-up line: something you say to someone to attract them - something that is not necessarily true or meaningful in any way. IOW, it is bait.

To pick someone up is to get them to go out with you, have sex with you, etc. In British English the more common expression is probably chat someone up.

  • 5
    There's also the more general idiom of "feeding someone a line", meaning to tell them a false or biased story in order to persuade someone to do what you want them to. I've always assumed it was derived from a fishing reference (as was "they swallowed my story hook, line, and sinker") but I have no evidence to support that.
    – keshlam
    Oct 4, 2014 at 16:27
  • @keshlam: Good point - consider posting it as an answer. I'm not sure evidence to support that is very important here - the question is not about etymology. It is only about what the term line means in this context. Conjecture about origin can help in such a context, by suggesting possible connotations.
    – Drew
    Oct 4, 2014 at 16:33
  • After some of the comments my answers have drawn here, I'm a bit gun-shy. Comments don't get criticized as strongly.
    – keshlam
    Oct 4, 2014 at 16:37
  • 1
    @keshlam: Take such comments into account case by case; or ignore them, if they don't help. Ideally, they should help you improve answers, but not inhibit you from trying to help by providing answers. IOW, read the comments, but try not to feel intimidated by them. Think of readers in general, and whether you think that what you have to offer might help someone. Forget the rest.
    – Drew
    Oct 4, 2014 at 16:48
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    @keshlam I assumed that feeding someone a line derived from acting (possibly related to the work of a prompter) or to comedy where someone the comedian is fed a line that sets up a terrific comedic response.
    – AdrianHHH
    Oct 4, 2014 at 19:29

The term line is often used to describe a statement that is insincere or less than true. One of the many [Oxford Dictionaries Online] definitions for the term is

informal A false or exaggerated account or story: he feeds me a line about this operation

Similarly, [Collins] defines it as

(slang) something said for effect, esp to solicit for money, sex, etc.: he gave me his usual line

And [Macmillan]

[SINGULAR] a remark, excuse, or explanation that is not sincere or true Don't give me that old line.

As @Drew notes in his answer, the term is often part of the phrase pick-up line and is used as an introduction to a romantic play.

While I have no authority for this observation, the term may have gotten this meaning from association with its use to describe a line that an actor speaks -- a statement that is not the honest thought of the speaker, but said for effect.

To answer your first question, yes, the a is an indefinite article.


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