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"to string somebody along", i.e. to deceive.

What's the origin of this phrase?

I always picture a cow being lead by the speaker with a piece of string.

2
  • You can find the etymology online.
    – DjinTonic
    Nov 14, 2021 at 16:08
  • I didn't close anything.
    – Gyro
    Nov 14, 2021 at 17:20

1 Answer 1

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According to Green’s Dictionary of Slang the original idea is probably that of being dragged along on a string:

string (along) v.:

  1. in senses of persuasion [the image of dragging someone along on the end of a string].
  • (a) to fool, to deceive someone, esp. over a drawn-out period of time; to tease; thus stringing n.

Early usage examples:

  • 1812 [UK] Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 251: To banter or jest with a man by amusing him with false assurances or professions, is also termed stringing him, or getting him in tow.

  • 1830 [UK] W.T. Moncrieff Heart of London II i: A very soft move his coming here, considering how he’s been strung by our Nottingham merchant here.

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