Posted by James Briggs on July 31, 2006
I've never really found a satisfactory origin of this mainly UK, Oz and NZ expression. It implies that someone is a bit mad/eccentric.
Personally, I feel it comes from the 1920s fashion of pole sitting; those that undertook this 'pastime' must have been a bit weird. However I've just been sent a 'I was told' type origin suggesting that it came from old fashioned mental institutions. I'm not convinced.
I can't find anything really reliable on the Net. Any ideas? - it's not in our archive.
See also: the meaning and origin of 'up the pole'.