Rings on her fingers, bells on her toes

Michael B Quinion michael at QUINION.COM
Tue Feb 22 13:28:56 UTC 2000

> That calls to mind a line I read in a Discworld novel (Terry
> Pratchett).
> A working class character in the novel wasn't believing  what
> somebody was telling him, so he said: "pull the other one,
> it's got bells on it," referring to pulling his leg.
> Is this a classic Briticism, or did Terry create this one out
> of whole cloth?

It is indeed a well-known phrase in Britain, regarded as the
full, or canonical, form of the expression. It brings to mind
the court jester, complete with cap and bells. Nigel Rees, in
his Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, says it is known from
the 1960s, no doubt in reference to the earliest citations in
the OED. Partridge's Dictionary of Catch Phrases quotes Frank
Shaw as saying it was known in the 1920s, but provides no firm

Michael Quinion

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