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4 July 2011

Monday's word - Fast And Loose'

 First of all, I want to wish all my American friends A VERY HAPPY 4th JULY.

Today's word is nothing to do with Independence Day but I hope you'll find it interesting.
(Taken from my usual source, Michael Quinion's World Wide Words*)

One especially widespread entertainment in Victorian London was gambling. It took place anywhere that people gathered - in markets, fairgrounds, racecourses, pubs, or in the street. Those in charge
of them usually had some way of diverting a mug from his money by less than honest means.

One gambling game required a leather belt, garter or string tied into an endless loop. The man in charge twisted it into a figure-of-eight formation and asked someone to put a finger into one of the loops thus made. If the string snagged on his finger when the
string was pulled away, he won. The trick was that there were two ways to make the figure-of-eight. In one, the game was genuine,
with one loop snagging and the other not; in the other, neither did, and the victim always lost. In Britain, from the eighteenth century onwards, it was sometimes called pin and girdle, more often prick the garter, but it had been known from the sixteenth century and after as fast and loose, using "fast" in its sense of something fixed or immovable. The expression "to play fast and loose" had become an idiom before 1557, the date of its first recorded use. It was an obvious progression from the nature of the game to a sense
of dishonestly or irresponsibly trifling with another's affections.

So next time your fictional 'hero' plays 'fast and loose' with the heroine's affections, you'll know where the saying came from. Have you come across it yourself or do you use it in your writing?

*World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion 2011. All rights reserved The  original post can be found at:  http://www.worldwidewords.org

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