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Down the garden path

Posted by Rob on February 15, 2000

In Reply to: Down the garden path posted by ESC on February 13, 2000

: : Does anyone know where this phrase originated?

: : Thanks.

: From "Heavens to Betsy" by Charles Earle Funk (Harper & Row, New York, 1955): "to lead one up (or down) the garden (or garden path) - This expression, in frequent use by English writers, has not yet gained much currency in the United States. It is relatively new, dating probably no further back than around the end of World War I. When I wrote to Sir St. Vincent Troubridge, whom I have quoted variously elsewhere, to inquire whether he could suggest a possible origin, I advanced the theory that seduction might have been the aim in the 'leading.' He did not agree with that view, though he was not able to offer anything more plausible. Nevertheless, to quote the 'Supplement to The English Oxford Dictionary,' the saying means 'to lead on - mislead,' and the earliest printed quotation that is cited in from Ethel Mannin's 'Sounding Brass' : 'They're cheats, that's wot women are! Lead you up the garden and then go snivellin' around 'cos wot's natcheral 'as 'appened to 'em.' If that doesn't imply seduction, then what does it imply? Be that as it may, current usage rarely, if ever, carries other meaning than to bamboozle, to hoax, to blarney, to pull one's leg, to deceive."

The phrase is commonly used by salespeople, at least in the US. The implication is not
neccessarily to hoodwink someone, but rather to walk them down a logical path. Which
of course leads to the closing of the sale.