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Pull the other one, it has.. bells.. ..on?

All Things Discworldian - The Guild of Pratchett Fans

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Jun 8, 2009, 9:14pm Top

Okay. I'm very definitely an American. But I'm proud of myself for getting a lot of the Britishisms that happen in Sir Terry's books.

But this one? What the hell? Gaspode says it at some point. And somebody else says it. And then somebody (I think it's possibly Detritus) says it wrong somehow, but since I don't get the actual phrase, I don't get the saying-it-wrong bit even more.

It's possible that it's just.. made up. So, my question to you:

Does this line mean anything to anyone?

Jun 8, 2009, 9:44pm Top

It's like saying "you're pulling my leg". It means you don't believe what someone's told you.

I found this online, perhaps it'll help too:

There has been quite a lot of discussion on the leg-pulling theme. Some of the discussion involved people being hanged. It is the case that hanging can be drawn out and unpleasant - so the condemned man would often pay for the hangman or somebody to pull down on the legs to ensure a quick death. that causes an association between pulling legs and money.
somebody said that sometimes children would pull the legs in the hope of coins falling out of pockets. to tell a person to 'pull the other one' is to tell them to have another go - they might be luckier next time. if a pocket has coins it will jingle, as a bell would.
it is used as an expression of disbelief.

Jun 9, 2009, 7:17am Top

I'd always assumed it was a morris dance related phrase, not sure why.

The use: "to tell a person to 'pull the other one' is to tell them to have another go - they might be luckier next time" is exactly right.

If anyone's got a full OED, or maybe even Brewer's they might have a source for the phrase.

Jun 9, 2009, 7:32am Top

I checked Brewers earlier - nothing in my copy, I'm afraid, though its not the latest edition.

Edited: Jun 9, 2009, 1:32pm Top

The hanging explanation makes sense, but.. eeeugh, really.

I think, in my head, the only thing I could come up with was some sort of jester's hat. You know, like this:

But that's really only because they have different bits to pull and they usually have bells on them.

Also! Crazy British people who don't say WHAT on! I'm always going, "bells on.. what?" :-P

Jun 10, 2009, 10:19pm Top

Well, perhaps my mind is in the gutter, but on the "pulling my leg" or "pull the other one" (meaning the other leg) theme, I always assumed they were referring to a man's "third" leg, you know, the one with the "bells" on it. Sorry, comes from being raised on a farm I think.

Jun 10, 2009, 10:29pm Top

Ha! I can totally see that. Would be just like Pratchett to have thought of it too.

Jun 10, 2009, 10:57pm Top

Oh thank you, MrsLee! I thought I was the only one with a dirty mind.

Jun 11, 2009, 12:46am Top

Pratchett explains it in one of the DW books, in a footnote I think. It has to do with Morris dancers being tortured, and a king saying "pull the other one, it has bells on" referring to the bells on the person being tortured. Or something like that; I'm very tired. :S

Jun 11, 2009, 12:51pm Top

yes, but that was the origin of the phrase in the DW. In the RW that phrase also exists but I doubt any Morris dancers were tortured to produce it. Although maybe they should have been... Have you noticed that Sir Pterry has a thing about Morris dancers and mimes? Vetinari is very hard on mimes...

Jun 12, 2009, 5:37am Top

What's very hard about being forced to climb an invisible ladder out of a scorpion pit while reading a sign that says "Learn the Words"? Natural justice, I would say.

Actually, I'm not really that tough - I'm only pulling your leg.

Jun 16, 2009, 4:17pm Top

Not really a first use but I recall a song from a school musical that I had to learn many years ago (say 1982) that involved a series of highly improbable (but true within the context of the plot) events related by someone renowned for their falsehoods. The chorus (from the unbelievers) perfectly illustrates the use of the phrase:-

Oh, oh, oh! You don't expect us to believe that pack of lies,
We'll belt you if you say another word,
The other leg's got bells on you, can pull it if you like,
But so far this is really quite absurd!

Dec 15, 2009, 8:58pm Top

Ok i'm an Australian and here we have a saying that's "pull the other leg it plays jingle bells!" so maybe Terry has heard that over here :)

Dec 16, 2009, 2:39pm Top

I'm not sure of the origins, but it's a fairly old phrase meaning “I don't believe you”. The “it's got bells on” bit is meant to be ironic/sacrcastic – in other words, “what you say is as likely as me having bells on my other leg”.
“Pulling your leg”, meaning “teasing, having a joke at your expense” was the original phrase.

Mar 22, 2010, 1:25pm Top

This is my take on it; if someone teased you, they'd say "I'm just pulling your leg".
If you knew you were being teased, you might say, wearily "Pull the other one, it's got bells on" (ie other leg has got bells on, but this one doesn't), as in 'Yeah, I know you're teasing me', or even 'I know you're teasing me; you might as well go the whole hog'. At least, that's more or less the subliminal message I get when I read that.

Mar 23, 2010, 6:25am Top

"Cummon Aussie"

"...Pull the other one..." has always had SEXUAL connations.

The "jingle Bells" is even well known here in Victoria!

Although we would probably say "...it CUMS with..."

OH Dear...

Your Guido

Apr 2, 2011, 5:10pm Top

I am British and this phrase is definatly a well known one over here and not invented by Sir Terry. As far as I am aware it is an extension of the phrase 'pull the other one' meaning you think someone is either lying or joking, the addition of 'it's got bells on' is to indicate that they must think you are a fool, hence the bells. That has always been my understanding anyway.

Apr 3, 2011, 3:55am Top

I totally agree with KayEluned on this. 100% spot on.

Nov 16, 2012, 11:14pm Top

I always thought it meant something like this:
Person A says to me: something that sounds of bullcrap, with the full intention that you believe them.
I, reply thusly:You're pulling my leg (or in modern american terms: Buuuuuuuull@$$%), so Pull the other one, and if you're fool enough to think I'd believe you, then you're fool enough to believe me when I say it's got bells on.

Dec 11, 2012, 4:43pm Top

Girls drink in pairs. They are rarely both beautiful because that would be too competitive. Therefore boys hunt in pairs too. You are unlikely to be successful on your own. As guys on the make (many years ago......) having made conversation with the beauty, your partner-in-crime was then duty bound to “pull the other one”.

Would I lie to you............?

Jan 10, 2013, 4:23pm Top

Ha ha ha ha, brilliant explanation Novak

Jan 11, 2013, 2:37am Top

I confess I was laughing out loud when I typed it. Also funny to relate that the “back up man” always seemed to end up getting the best end of the bargain.. .. .. ..

Jan 21, 2013, 3:02pm Top

>1 paixe: This gets interesting......Nowhere on this topic has it been pointed out......That phrase does not occur in any of Sir Terry's books. This should make you think hard.. .. .. .. .. .. .. :o)

Feb 14, 2013, 3:57pm Top

Are you sure? I was convinced it does, I might have to go and investigate

Feb 21, 2013, 2:04pm Top

HeyKay: It's close.....Bear in mind TP is not an American................

Feb 24, 2013, 7:04pm Top

In a similar vain the expression "Poking fun at" someone is interesting. "Making fun of" is easy to understand but "Poking fun at".....................?

I wonder how that came about.

Mar 5, 2013, 3:31pm Top

>23 Novak: It's very likely that you are correct, ... but ...
>24 KayEluned:: Check, for example, the first letter Carrot writes (p. 41 in my Corgi paperback edition of "Guards! Guards").

Edited: Mar 5, 2013, 5:15pm Top

>27 rstaedter: Hey rs. Yep....Page 30 in my City Watch Trilogy hardback. But.....He doesn't say "Pull the other one, kid. It has bells on." And he would not. Why not?-- -- -- -- :)

Mar 6, 2013, 2:14am Top

Concrete thinking. A literal mind.

Mar 6, 2013, 12:39pm Top

Who, Captain Vimes..? Pinky.....He was pisatively possed in a "common ale-house" (you wouldn't understand about them) at the time he said it.......................... ;-)

Mar 7, 2013, 9:55pm Top

No - it is Carrot who suffers from concrete thinking. He doesn't recognise metaphors

It is a term used in psychiatry

Mar 8, 2013, 6:04am Top

Hmmm...... Concrete thinking... Sounds like a... Band with Rocks In............Hmmm.... $$$$$.. .. ..

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