[Idiom] pull a number

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yuriya

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Hello, everyone. I hope you are having a good time. I encountered an expression, pull a number and from the context it seems to mean something similar to pull one's chain/leg that sort of thing. I tried googling but found nothing satisfactory. Tell me I'm on the right track.

On a side note, I wonder why pull is often used in the sense of "playful mischiefs". I certainly seem to miss something here so please feel free to enlighten me. Oh, BTW when we say, "He just pulled a Homer/Houdini" or "I don't know how he pulled it off" do these "pulled" have something to do with what I just mentioned as "playful mischief"? Thanks in advance!
 

yuriya

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Is "pull a number" related to "do a number"? If they are, how can I use them properly? And I wonder what a number means there? And I just found another variation: I caught him doing a peeping Tom number on Jessy.
 

Tdol

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You can pull or do a number,
 

yuriya

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A peeping Tom is someone who secretly looks at someone. This is usually done by the peeping Tom looking through a window at a woman - probably while the woman is in a bedroom. To do a number on someone is to physically harm them. I don't believe that to "pull a number" and "do a number" are related.

To do a number doesn't necessarily impart physically harming someone. It rather seems to have a song/dance allusion, which was the reason for the query. languagehat.com: DO A NUMBER.


You can pull or do a number,
Tdol, if you are not just pulling a number on me, can you be more specific?
 

Tdol

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That's only one of the possible meanings. It can also mean, according to the article, have a bad effect on, which is more likely the case here. If someone spied on you getting undressed through your window, would you regard it as having a bad effect on you or as a performance, especially when they are trying to avoid being seen?
 

Ouisch

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Tdol, as always, is spot on. In AmE, "pull a number" and "do a number" are synonymous, although "do a number" is probably more common.

Some examples:

"My parents accused me of smoking marijuana so I pulled a Bill Clinton number on them and said that I didn't inhale."

"My bank is really doing a number on me - they charge me a service fee for every check I write and every deposit I make!"
 

yuriya

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That's only one of the possible meanings. It can also mean, according to the article, have a bad effect on, which is more likely the case here. If someone spied on you getting undressed through your window, would you regard it as having a bad effect on you or as a performance, especially when they are trying to avoid being seen?
What I meant by song and dance allusion was that you do your routine, what you characteristically do best (song and dance being one of the routines actors do best) rather than you make a scene. It's hard to be specific, eh? So, when I read the sentence of I caught him doing a peeping Tom number on Jessy, I figured the writer meant that the speaker(I) caught the perpetrator (him) in the action of doing his characteristic thing (doing peeping Tom, his gig as it were) on Jessy.

Tdol, as always, is spot on. In AmE, "pull a number" and "do a number" are synonymous, although "do a number" is probably more common.

Some examples:

"My parents accused me of smoking marijuana so I pulled a Bill Clinton number on them and said that I didn't inhale."

"My bank is really doing a number on me - they charge me a service fee for every check I write and every deposit I make!"

I sense that it is not very clear-cut between do/pull a Bill Clinton number and pull a Bill Clinton then? One more thing, do you consider the following as acceptable?

My son really pulled a number on my car last night.

instead of

My son really did a number on my car last night.

God, it's hard to sort these things out!
 
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