In Reply to: Would not touch it with a ten foot pole posted by RCP on March 12, 2010 at 08:38:
: Greetings - it is my understanding that the origins of "would not touch it with a ten foot pole" relates to the use of the Roman decempeda - ten foot pole - for camp layouts and all other standard linear measurements. Although all camp measurements were not 10 feet - the ten foot pole was standard. This ensured rapid mobilization with enough distance between camp units and standardized camp layouts for the army.
Personally I've hardly ever heard that version. In the UK I think 'I wouldn't touch that with a barge pole' is the most used expression. My guess is that almost anything that's reasonably long could be used in the phrase. What version is used may be the subject of regional variation.