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In Dictionary.com listed at number 14 is this definition of pin: Informal a human leg.

Kylie Minogue

"Legs that go on forever: Kylie showed off her enviable pins in the dress, which she teamed with black heels"

Nowadays online newspapers keep referring to women's legs as pins (never men's). I would like to know which type of pins are women legs being compared to?

  • bobby pins
  • bowling pins
  • hairpins
  • push pins
  • rolling pins
  • safety pins (unlikely but who knows!)
  • sewing pins

And when did it start coming into fashion?

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    Notice the top links if you search for showing off her pins? The Sun, The Express and Daily Mail... Does makes one think... And I ain't thinking USofA here – mplungjan Jun 19 '13 at 21:45
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    The Online Etymology Dictionary entry for pin states that the sense of a human leg came about in the 1520s (long before pinup girls). Also Macmillan Dictionary's entry for pin says it is British informal and old-fashioned. – JLG Jun 19 '13 at 21:45
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    1520s well I never. Interesting. – Mari-Lou A Jun 19 '13 at 21:47
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    @ Mari-Lou: Let that be a lesson to you! As with bird = young woman that dates back to at least 1400, it's mostly a case of "nothing new under the sun". – FumbleFingers Jun 20 '13 at 2:12
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    @JLG: I wouldn't say it's that "old-fashioned". Practically all instances of nice pair of pins in Google Books are within the last decade or so. – FumbleFingers Jun 20 '13 at 2:16
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Pins for legs is a very old slang use - OED 1 earliest citation is from the play Hyckescorner, confidently dated 1497-1512:

Than wolde I renne thyder on my pynnes As fast as I might goe.

At the time the phrase was coined none of the sorts of pin you list seem to have been in use under that name. The root sense of pin seems to have been peg (think of a linchpin or a pin joint), but by the 15th century it had already been extended to pointers, pinnacles, pedestals, spikes, wedges, brooches, and wire pins (like to today's sewing pins) used as fasteners. I suspect the original coinage was closer to “peg” — stumps in the same sense arises about the same time — but I find no evidence one way or another.

In any case, I doubt that people who use this colloquialism (who are not, in my experience, casual real-life speakers but pop-culture/celebrity journalists) have any particular kind of pin (or peg) in mind, or have any sense at all that some literal sense of pin lies behind the word. It's just faintly slangy, faintly retro, faintly humorous seasoning for otherwise drab and repetitive copy.

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  • +1 for the quote in all its simplicity, "That I could run on my legs as fast as I might go" (correct?) has an air of tragic beauty. – Mari-Lou A Jun 19 '13 at 22:56
  • @Mari-LouA I am sorry to disillusion you, but the speaker is a hardened bawdmaster and debauchee who scorns sound religious counsel, declaring that if hell were full of such sluts as his "sweet trully-mully" Jane, Kate, Bess, and Sibley he would run there as fast his legs could carry him. – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 19 '13 at 23:57
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Way back in the early sixties when I was a student nurse under 20 a male patient called out as I walked past him, “nice pair of pins”. I had never heard the expression before but realized it was a cat call and so I just smiled at him because he was sick and thought I had nice legs (even encased in a uniform going way below my legs (and measured every day by a teacher, sometimes using a ruler!) I was a cyclist and ball player from way back so have muscular calves! I guess this male patient had quite bad eyesight! However, 2 husbands have liked my body so I guess my “pins are OK!

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