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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Bainbo Folklore: Don't touch them with a barge pole (12) RE: Folklore: Don't touch them with a barge pole 02 Nov 10

Barge poles are quite long, so using one to touch something or someone might humorously suggest they are so unpalatable that you're only prepared to touch them at a distance. If thety're even more unpleasant, then you wouldn't even be prepared to touch them with a barge pole. That's how I've always understood it, anyway.

I imagine it's one of those phrases that, when it was coined, conjured up such a startling image that it was seized on and repeated until it became so familiar that any originality was lost completely.

Another one I can think of is "thick as a plank", which later became "thick as two short planks." I remember being delighted the frst time I heard that second one, but now it's become so commonplace as to convey nothing special.

On the barge pole, though, its familiarity has at least proved a bonus in that peopple now use it as a base for other images. Uncharitable - but funny - phrases I've heard, meant to convey that a woman isn't very attractive, include:

"Mate, I wouldn't touch her with yours."


"She was covered in little round bruises where blokes had been touching her with 10-foot barge poles."

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