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Wrapped around the axle

Posted by Smokey Stover on June 17, 2007

In Reply to: Wrapped around the axle posted by Frank C on June 17, 2007

: "Wrapped around the axle" - a difficult situation from which to extract oneself. Is it the horses tail or the reins? What is the origin?

You have given a definition, which is by and large consistgent with what I've seen in searching this phrase. Let me show you what the Urban Dictionary has (these 2 definitions are not provided by lexicographers, but by citizen volunteers):

1. wrapped around the axle
To be extremey or overly upset.

"Jordan is wrapped around the axle because he has to sit on the bench during the game."
tags bothered annoyed mad anxious ticked off
2. wrapped around the axle
To be confused by something, to the point of paralysis. Imagine driving a car over a wire fence. The fence becomes wrapped around the axle, stopping the car.

This network problem has got me wrapped around the axle.
tags confused frustrated paralyzed paralysis by analysis fubar

Searching with Google I found numerous relevant, but ambiguous, examples, some suggesting that people working on a problem got all tied up on some bottleneck, searching for a perhaps needless solution to a perhaps irrelevant problem.

And there was this:

"Company Lingo - What your boss really means
...All companies have a lingo that is used to convey information. In one sense these phrases and acronyms are humorous but in another way they are key to understanding what is being communicated...

o Wrapped around the axle - the person who says this generally means if this conversation does not end, they will scream."

To see the other definitions of company lingo, use this URL:

[Dead link removed - ed]

My search provided numerous examples of something actually being wrapped around an axle, but nothing related to horses. Have you seen this example used in relation to either to a horse's tail or to reins? It is extremely unlikely that a horse's tail would become wrapped around the axle of a wagon. The reins might, if someone dropped them just right. If that happened, the wagon might indeed run up on the horse or horses, causing the wagon to stop utterly, and perhaps be kicked apart by the horses. Or the event could cause the horses to bolt, with a wagon attached and only the rear wheels rotating. Have you seen or heard of an example of this happening?

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