phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

"shooting a line"

Posted by Barney on September 08, 2000

In Reply to: "Shooting a line" posted by DM on September 07, 2000

: : : : : : : Can somebody out there tell me the meaning and or origin of the saying "shooting a line"

: : : : : : The only time I ever heard this term was at my feeble attempt a few times at fly casting on a lake in upstate NY.
: : : : : : In a standard cast the fly line and rod are lifted with a smooth motion in an up and back direction. This backcast motion is stopped when the rod reaches slightly past vertical. As the fly line begins to fall or straighten out, the forward cast begins with increasing acceleration as the wrist snaps the rod from the eleven to the one o'clock positions, shooting the line and fly forward toward the presentation area.
: : : : : : Then there is the drug culture saying of "doing lines"--the setting up of 2" x .125" "lines" of a substance to be inhaled.

: : : : : I've seen this in a nautical context, much like throwing a line = emergency help to someone who has fallen overboard. As navies modernized, a rifle-like device was used to accurately deliver a line (rope) to another ship so that a larger line could be hauled over. This was done to transfer or rescue sailors between ships, often using a bosun's chair, which was nothing more than a canvas sling suspended from a pulley. Thus to shoot someone a line is to offer help.

: : : : And there was I of the firm conviction that "shooting a line" was the act of telling a tall story.

: : : "shooting a line"--this is indeed a way of telling a "tall story", but it is also a term that is used in the building trade. When laying out a project, a chalk line--a long length of string--is coated with colored chalk,held tightly against the working surface, then "popped", by pulling the taut string away from the surface then releasing, thereby "imprinting" or "shooting" a "line" that acts as a guide for the work to be done.--Michael

: : "Snapping a chalk line" is the phrase I've heard for that. Back to "shooting a line." Isn't there a song performed by Muddy Waters that goes, "...the line I shoot, it never miss..." That's the only time I've heard that expression. I thought it had to do with talking up a girl. Pick-up lines.
: Shooting a line certainly meant telling a tall story, usually about oneself, in RAF slang of the early 1940s. It was generally frowned upon.

You're correct, I knew I'd heard the phrase so I consulted my dad, who served in the RAF, and he confirms that it was common currency during WWII - certainly in the RAF.