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Swinging the lead--A nautical term!

Posted by Bruce Kahl on September 06, 2000

In Reply to: Swinging the lead posted by Alastair on September 06, 2000

: Where does the phrase come from and how would you describe the meaning to someone?

Swinging the lead - A person pretending to work (or claiming to be ill) when he is not.
Pre-modern days, seamen would check the depth of water by dropping
a lead weight, attached to a thin marked rope, to the bottom of a
waterway. Some lazy sailors would take as long as possible about it.
They would swing the lead to and fro several times instead of just
dropping it straight into the water.