Fast and loose
Posted: 22 December 2007 08:05 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Have we done this one before? Is “fast” in the expression as in “make a rope fast to a spar” or as in “race fast safe car”?  The two conjure up quite different images.

[ Edited: 22 December 2007 10:02 AM by bayard ]
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Posted: 22 December 2007 08:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It’s ultimately from the sense of “make a rope fast to a spar,” but the phrase is a bit more interesting.

The proximate origin is the name of a con game, along the lines of three-card monte (in spirit, not in actual structure of the game). From George Whetstone’s 1578 The Right Excellent Historye of Promos and Cassandra:

At fast or loose, with my Giptian, I meane to haue a cast.

The game is undoubtedly somewhat older than this, as the metaphorical sense predates this citation by some decades. From Tottel’s Miscellany of 1557:

Of a new maried studient that plaied fast or loose.

The game is described in this quote from James O. Halliwell’s 1847 A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, Proverbs and Ancient Customs, from the Fourteenth Century:

Fast-and-loose, a cheating game played with a stick and a belt or string, so arranged that a spectator would think he could make the latter fast by placing a stick through its intricate folds, whereas the operator could detach it at once.

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Posted: 22 December 2007 11:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Good one for the Big List.

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