be swinging the lead

be swinging the lead

To be feigning illness to avoid work. Primarily heard in UK. Gerald's boss thought that he was swinging the lead, so she felt awful when she saw that Gerald was actually in hospital.
See also: lead, swinging
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

be swinging the lead

BRITISH
If someone is swinging the lead, they are pretending to be ill to avoid working. Note: Lead is a very heavy metal. It is a question of getting the right benefits to the right people, and we want to stop anyone swinging the lead. Note: In the past, when a ship was in shallow water, one of the sailors would drop a piece of lead on a string, called a plumbline, over the side of the ship to find out how deep the water was. Sometimes sailors would just swing the plumbline, because they were too lazy to do the work properly. `Plumb the depths' is also based on this practice.
See also: lead, swinging
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
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