Posted by Chris on January 06, 2002
In Reply to: Meaning of posted by James Briggs on January 06, 2002
: : : Hello,
: : : I was wondering if anyone knows the roots of the phrase, lay it on the line, I was told by an academic proffesor of gender studies that it refered to the measurement of penis size in taverns during medevil times in europe
: : I always thought your phrase derived from some type of sporting event---either the starting line of a foot race or the center line of tennis.
: Another thought - 'My job is on the line' is perhaps related to the above although the expression has an implication of job insecurity
I always thought that laying something "on the line" means risking something. By doing something unusual at work, you might be laying your job on the line. Sometimes by taking a firm stand on an issue you might be laying something on the line (your reputation, perhaps).
Thus, could it be possible that this phrase reflects putting some betting-token (money, even) on a table, displaying it and lining it up with those of other bettors, to make it available to the winner, who takes all?
Going further, could it have to do with some ancient sacrifice? (i.e. "line up your daughters and the high priest will choose one to be offered up" - hence putting your daughter (property) on the line to be chosen or passed up, beyond your control) - I doubt, however, that the term "line up here, please" was much in use among the Druids :)