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Shooting a line

Posted by Smokey Stover on March 31, 2010 at 03:57

In Reply to: Shooting a line posted by Victoria S Dennis on March 30, 2010 at 15:52:

: : What is the origin of "shooting a line" i.e. telling an untruth or exagerating a truth perhaps. OED suggets first recorded in 1941. My hunch is that it comes from harpooning a whale or casting in fishing. Any suggestions please.

: The OED reckons that "line" here has the sense 'marked tendency, a policy or trend (in any activity). In slang: a glib or superficially attractive mode of address or behaviour, plausible talk. So "to do a line with" (Austral. and NZ.), to (try to) enter into an amorous relationship with', and that "shoot" has the same sense that it does in "shoot one's mouth off". (VSD)

I'd really like to know the date of whatever Dani Miles was reading or hearing. In my experience as a North American, shooting a line went out of common currency many generations ago. A "line" is still a flow of words designed to entrap or deceive, either untrue or irrelevant. But I believe people stopped "shooting" such a line a long time ago.

About 70 years ago, more or less, British movie-makers identified characters from the U.S. by having them say "I reckon" a lot, instead of I think or I believe. This was thought to be a sure mark of American nationality. Sometimes it was pronounced as "Ah reckon," and probably still is in some cowboy movies. It seems an indelible part of cowboy speech, in the popular imagination, to say "Ah reckon" instead of "I think."