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Topic Summary

Posted by: English
« on: May 12, 2018, 06:26:20 PM »

Pull the wool over his eyes

This has become a popular expression in many English speaking countries, but very few people seem to know its origin.

It dates back to the days of the English highwaymen. English gentlemen would often take a lady for a drive in their carriage, and this was often part of the courtship ritual. In fact, the road "Five mile drive" in Oxford was so named because it was the turning point for a five mile drive from the centre of Oxford. Horse drawn carriages were also the main means of transport for a gentleman and his lady if they were travelling to their country home. Highwaymen were aware that they could be carrying reasonable sums of money and jewellery, and would stop the carriage at pistol point. The penalty if you were caught was hanging, and Tibbet's corner on the A3 road at Roehampton is derived from the name Gibbet's corner. It is on a crossroad, and the dead highwaymen were left hanging there as a disincentive to those who were considering taking up robbery.

So what has all this got to do with wool pulling? It was fashionable for the gentlemen of the time to wear wigs, and the highwayman would take advantage of this. After he had robbed the couple, he would reach over and pull the man's wig over his eyes. This meant that the man had to adjust his wig before he could reach for his pistol. The old pistols were not very accurate, and the extra few seconds gave the highwayman a chance to escape on his speeding horse before the man could fire at him.