swing the lead

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swing the lead

To feign illness to avoid work. Gerald's boss accused him of swinging the lead, but felt awful when he saw that Gerald was actually in hospital.
See also: lead, swing

swing the lead

malinger; shirk your duty. British informal
This phrase originated in the armed forces and the lead in question is probably a sounding lead, a lump of lead attached to a line and slowly lowered to determine the depth of a stretch of water. The connection between this process and shirking one's duty is not entirely clear.
See also: lead, swing

ˌswing the ˈlead

(old-fashioned, British English, informal) (usually used in the progressive tenses) pretend to be ill/sick when you are not, especially to avoid work: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with her — she’s just swinging the lead.The lead (pronounced /led/ ) may refer to a weight at the bottom of a line that sailors used to measure how deep the water was. Swinging the lead was possibly considered an easy job, and so came to mean avoiding hard work.
See also: lead, swing