Posted by Scott Marsden on July 07, 2000
The origin listed for the phrase "put a spanner in the works" is interesting, but it's not really an origin. After all, the title of Lennon's book wouldn't be much of a play on words if the phrase "a spanner in the works" didn't already exist.
For those who don't know, "spanner" is the British term for "wrench". To "put a spanner in the works" is the equivalent of tossing a wrench into the gears of a machine -- like the description says, a deliberate way to foul things up. Whethere it originates from some specific source, I don't know!