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History hard to find

Posted by R. Berg on March 31, 2003

In Reply to: Re: Pull the other one, it's got bells on posted by Yasmin Mazur on March 31, 2003

: : : : : Can someone help me with the ORIGIN of THIS expression?
: : : : : I'm not looking for it's meaning, I know it's when someone doesn't believe what was said. I'm not looking for the origin of Pulling my leg either - just the phrase Pull The Other One, It's Got Bells On.
: : : : : BTW - what is the connection between the bells and someone's leg? Doesn't seem relevant, just two expressions that got confused together.

: : : : "A Dictionary of Catch Phrases American and British," by Eric Partridge, has an entry for this phrase. It says just a little about the origin: "Frank Shaw attributed it to the 1920s" (no, I don't know who he was) and "Presumably from pictures of court jesters, wearing cap and bells."

: : : I thought it was older than that. This explanation doesn't make sense, is there a chance for a better one?

: : You asked this very same question on Message Board #19 (the one that just got archived). In case you can't find your way to it, here's a link to the answers received back then.

: Yeah, I know - I got the origin of Pulling My Leg - not very helpful, although the intention was good. I'm looking for a specific expression, not the history of sayings about not believing something.

I checked the Word Detective's site and didn't find anything. The origin of many sayings like this is lost in the mists of time. People weren't taking notes when the sayings arose, and all we have now is reference books with incomplete accounts.