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 very sick.
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