Yank, jerk, or pull someone’s chain

Yank someone’s chain, jerk someone’s chain, and pull someone’s chain are all versions of the same idiom. We will examine the meaning of the idioms yank someone’s chain, jerk someone’s chain, and pull someone’s chain, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

To yank, jerk, or pull someone’s chain means to tease someone, to play a practical joke on someone, or to goad someone into overreacting to a situation.

Often, the terms yank someone’s chain, jerk someone’s chain, and pull someone’s chain are used in a friendly manner. However, just as often, the term is used in anger, especially as an admonishment such as the exclamation, “Don’t yank my chain!”

There are many apocryphal stories on the internet concerning the origin of these phrases. This American slang is known to have been coined in the United States during the 1800s, and are most probably simply related to the practice of jerking the chain that tethers a dog, or jerking a chain that is attached to a prisoner.

Examples in a Sentence

“When I was asked to read through the script and to think about getting involved in this podcast I thought it was a joke — like someone was genuinely yanking my chain, but after I read through it, I thought that the concept was really good,” explains Mpumlwana.   (The Independent)

In August, Mayor Sly James visited a PIEA board meeting and accused it of “jerking my chain” by delaying a vote on a resolution of support for the AdvanceKC reforms. (The Kansas City Business Journal)

“Darren showed me the ropes back in the day, pulled my chain a few times as a rookie, which helps you settle in and play with some of the best guys in the world.” (Golf Digest)

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