Pull a fast one

Pull a fast one is an idiom that dates from the twentieth century. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom pull a fast one, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To pull a fast one means to cheat someone or to trick or deceive someone. The idiom pull a fast one came into use in the 1920s in the United States, a fertile time for new idioms. The expression was popularized in the 1930s in gangster movies. The exact etymology is not understood; however, it is assumed that the term pull a fast one refers to shuffling cards in a manner that allows the player to cheat by quickly pulling advantageous cards from the top or bottom of the deck, faster than the other players can perceive. Related phrases are pulls a fast one, pulled a fast one, pulling a fast one.


Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, characterized Democrats as trying to “pull a fast one” and acting “pure and simple for power” during a GOP breakfast in Springfield prior to Republican Day at the State Fair on Thursday. (Clinton Herald)

Taiwan will not allow Chinese companies to “pull a fast one” by using indirect methods to bypass rules and regulations to operate in the island’s market, Premier Su Tseng-chang said on Tuesday. (Reuters)

It’s fair to say that CD Projekt Red tried to pull a fast one on players, restricting journalists (including The Washington Post) from posting any footage during the game’s unusually short review period, and not allowing anyone to see the product on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One consoles, where the game was at worst, unplayable, and at best, embarrassing. (Washington Post)

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