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"Yank one's chain"

Posted by ESC on April 09, 2001

In Reply to: Need the origin of "Yank ones chain" posted by C. Heymann on April 09, 2001

: Guys, I am trying to find the origin of the phrase "yank my chain" or "yank his/her chain".
: If any of you know any official source for the meaing of this phrase, please let me know.
: Thanks!

: C. Heymann

From "The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang" by Tony Thorne (Pantheon Books, New York, 1990; originally published in Great Britain by Bloomsbury Publishing, 1990):

"YANK (SOMEONE AROUND/SOMEONE'S CHAIN) -- vb. American to mislead, deceive, harass or irrate. The image on which the expression is based is that of a chained or leashed animal or prisoner being thoughtlessly or maliciously jerked about or led in different directions..."

The image I have is more benign -- a cartoon scenario of a bulldog on a chain and a cat, or whatever, accidently pulling the chain. And there's a variation, "Who pulled your string?" referring to talking dolls that are activated by pulling out a string in their backs. Remember Chatty Cathy?