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Fast and Loose

Posted by James Briggs on October 14, 2000

In Reply to: Fast and Loose posted by Tim Chandler on October 13, 2000

: Can anyone verify this origin for the phrase "fast and loose" or "to play fast and loose" - one meaning nowadays,
: at least, to be duplicitous and not straightforward:
: It comes from the days of the longbow in England when one of the laws in existence in effect forgave a
: practicing archer from being held liable to any wounds caused from his arrows while he was shooting
: at the practice butts. It was common to use the phrase "Hold fast!" or merely, "Fast!" to warn an archer
: not to shoot, that there was someone still downrange. So the origin of the phrase "fast and loose" came
: from the act of calling "Fast!" and then releasing or loosing an arrow anyway, to play "Fast and Loose"
: thus describing an untruthful or unscrupulous person.

Here's my version:
fast and loose: If a young man plays fast and loose it means now-a-days that he's a bit of a lady's man; likes a good time. The origin is very different. "Pricking the Belt" was an old fair ground game, a little like the three card trick. The victim was invited to push a skewer through a folded belt so as to fix it to the table. The operator would then show that the belt was not, in fact, fast but still loose. He would, of course win the bet.