Swinging the lead origin

When we refer to someone as swinging the lead we mean that they are malingering or shirking their duties. In the days before ships were fitted with SONAR and when nautical charts were not quite as accurate as they might be, one of the constant dangers was running aground. It was of paramount importance to know the depths of the waters you were entering. Admiral W. A sounding lead, he defined, was an instrument for discovering the depth of the water, being a tapered cylinder of 7 or 14 or 28 lbs in weight and being attached, by means of a strop a flexible piece of leather to a lead line which is marked at certain distances to ascertain the fathoms. A deep sea lead, he wrote, was normally heavier, ranging from 28 to 56 lbs in weight, and attached to a much longer line.
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09.11.2020
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Why does 'swinging the lead' mean 'lazy'?

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SWING THE LEAD - ORIGIN

I can recall that, as a child, I was attracted to an explanation of the phrase 'swinging the lead' that went like this:. Sailors used to use lines weighted with lead in order to check how deep the water was beneath their ships. The lazier mariners skimped on the task and just swung the lead in the air, calling out a fictitious depth. Many years on and, as an etymologist, my heart doesn't exactly sing when I receive yet another email starting with "I've always believed that It seems time to revisit that explanation of 'swinging the lead' that I took on trust in my formative years and to check the facts.
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The meaning and origin of the expression: Swing the lead

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