Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Episode 183: Line Your Pockets Show Notes

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Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast

Episode 183: Line Your Pockets

Record Date: February 27, 2023

Air Date: March 1, 2023



Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Dan Pugh


And I’m Shauna Harrison

Each week we take an idiom or other turn of phrase and try to tell the story from its entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

Opening Hook

Have you ever felt like you just needed to make more money or maybe in the moment, you needed a little bit more cash? You just have to find a way to line your pockets and all will be good. 


What does it mean to line your pockets? 

This one is actually pretty simple - it means to make money… or get rich. Sometimes the phrase has the added “with gold” at the end. 

I should note that today, this phrase often has a negative connotation. 

Oxford English Dictionary gives us the definition,


to line one's pockets: to accumulate wealth, esp. illicitly or at the expense of others.

End quote 

We’ll look into the ways this phrase has been used, but first a note on pockets and how we hold stuff. Pockets haven’t been around forever - at least not built into clothing the way they are now. And they aren’t the only things used to hold money of course. The phrase, “line one’s purse” is used in the same way as “line one’s pocket”. But which was first? 

According to Oxford English Dictionary, the words Purse and Pocket both showed up in the English language around the same time - the 1200s. 

In English, the word purse has been consistently used to mean a small pouch or bag for holding things, specifically a receptacle for money. 


When the word pocket first entered the English language, pocket meant a bag or sack and sometimes was used as a measurement similar to: a sack of flour. 

The word pocket started being used to refer to a pouch used to hold stuff, including money. These pockets were not necessarily sewn into the clothing. They were often small purses or pouches sometimes attached to a belt, on a strap around the neck, or perhaps just carried in hand and so on. Over time, pockets were used more specifically for money and the term often referred to the money pouch kept inside of a larger bag, often a purse. 

So the history of purse vs. pocket is fairly convoluted but fortunately, our phrase isn’t this time.

Line one’s pockets is the winner. There are many references to it and I was able to find sufficient instances of it in print. 

I searched for the phrase “line one’s purse” and variations of it - which took quite awhile. The result? I didn’t find any good evidence for this being the origin of the phrase. There are a few items here and there including the phrase “lin’d his coat” in some copies of Shakespeare’s Othello. Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t mention the phrase using purse and I had trouble finding it in print before or even around the same time as the first appearances of “line one’s pocket”. 

And now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s dive in. 

The first attestation for line one’s pockets that I could find in print appears in the 1704 publication, titled Miscellaneous Works by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.


The Pitch of Honour, is desire of Money,

That Paltry Coward Vice has quite undone ye.

You court Preferment on no other score,

For who would not propose a Trip to Spain, 

That has within his Prospect double Gain, 

To line his Pockets and to save his Skin.

For none must fight with Merchants Money in? 

End quote 

The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle

In which are Included, Memoirs of a Lady of Quality. In Four Volumes. ...

By Tobias Smollett · 1758


End quote  

The Defects of Police:

The Cause of Immorality and the Continual Robberies Committed, Particularly in and about the Metropolis ... with Various Proposals for Preventing Hanging and Transportation ... Likewise for the establishment of … Several Plans of Police … on a permanent basis with respect to common beggars; the regulation of paupers; the peaceful security of subjects; and the moral and political conduct of the people: 

Observations on the Rev. Mr. Hetherington's Charity and the most probable means of relieving the blind. In Twenty-nine Letters to a Member of Parliment. 

By Jonas Hanway · 1775


How it hath given a pleasing relish to his enjoyments, and made his life pass with the more satisfaction; or filled his mind with ideas he had been much wiser and happier without. How the time spent in reading might have been employed in working, and lined his pocket rather than his skull. 

End quote  

Okay, this one is a cool history nugget. This is a Letter from Isaac Sears at New Haven [to General Washington] - yes, that General Washington who was headquartered in New York, at the time - May 2, 1776. This is available thanks to the New York State Archives via the New York State Provincial Congress. 


I think it will be a very dangerous consequence to sell the tea higher than Congress has limited it, for it would lay a foundation for violating every law the Contenental Congress has made and may hereafter make, whenever it suits the mercenary merchant to line his pocket with cash; and it is scandalous in the highest degree for the merchant to sell the tea higher than the limited price

End quote 

The next item comes from the Miscellaneous section of the Winchester gazette, September 08, 1821, out of Winchester, Virginia. In this one, the phrase is at the beginning of a little tale. 


End quote  

In the March 23, 1842 edition of the Edgefield advertiser out of Edgefield, South Carolina, folks were searching for a crook. We find our phrase in the piece title, “Look Out for The Thief” 


End quote 

The phrase was used in an article about banking, paper money, tariffs, the value of gold and silver, and so on. The article is found in the Carroll free press, August 11, 1843, out of Carrollton, Ohio.


End quote 

If you don’t like being swindled by banks, how about trying out the lottery? 

In the September 05, 1848 edition of the Richmond enquirer out of Richmond, Virginia, we find this ad:


End quote  

Now I do want to point out that while the phrase has been used more recently with a typically negative connotation, a few of the references we’re considering are not negative. In these, lining your pocket is simply getting more money. 

In an article titled Aiming for the Best Quality, we see the phrase. This comes from The weekly clarion, December 09, 1869, out of Jackson, Mississippi. 


End quote 

This article was encouraging people to bring high quality items and also purchase high-quality items at the market in order to improve the overall quality of the goods available. 

This next one is an ad of a different sort from the Fort Worth daily gazette., May 12, 1890 out of Fort Worth, Texas. This is a full-page spread encouraging people to move to Corpus Christi. The section we’re reading from is titled, Bee County and Beeville - New El Dorado for Homeseekers and Investors. 


End quote 

Around the turn of the century we start seeing the phrase used regularly to express honesty. One example is found in The Montgomery advertiser December 07, 1906 edition out of Montgomery, Alabama. In this article, the comments of a politician are being shared, who was discussing the positive aspects of the state of Alabama. 


End quote 

A similar use is found in the Albuquerque morning journal July 04, 1921 edition out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. In this case, the journal is speaking to its subscribers and readers. 


End quote 

The Washington times. [volume], November 17, 1934, Image 13

About The Washington times. [volume] (Washington [D.C.]) 1902-1939


End quote 

We have seen a few ad-like pieces but I think this next one takes the cake. In the Evening star December 15, 1950, out of Washington, D.C. we see our phrase in an ad for clothing - go figure. 


End quote 

Next up we’ll move to our modern uses, right after we say thank you to our sponsors. 

A Quick Thank You

This episode is sponsored by our amazing Patrons on Patreon.

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  • Thursday is our Patron’s only poll

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Modern Uses

The song Reflections of Truth from the 1989 album The Fear by Acid Reign has our phrase in the lyrics. Acid Reign is a thrash metal band from the United Kingdom that separated in 1991. Here’s the first verse of Reflections of Truth


Money, money is all you want

Lots of the green motivation

Your only intention is corruption

Use innocence to line your pocket

You wear that face so well

Who knows how many you've got

Smiling your way to the bank

Is the only pleasure that you have

End Quote 

I found that the phrase is used a lot these days in reviews online. Here is one example for Dr. Hirsch, the dentist. The office is located somewhere in north Illinois. 


End Quote 

Next we’ve got Don't Line Their Pockets With Gold (Line Your Own!): A Small How To Book on Living Large by Madelyn Rubin was published in 2013. Here is the synopsis. 


This book is about my cousin, Billy... a guy who taught me a lot over the years and who can teach you a lot. Everyone who really knows Billy is in awe of his lifestyle. He worked only a couple of years for a company, did not inherit any wealth, didn't rob banks or anyone else, yet has boats, planes and homes that he owns. His daily choice of wardrobe is 5 old T-shirts and 3 faded pairs of shorts. Billy is a mass of uniqueness in this world where most of us depend on the banks, credit cards, and working at jobs Monday through Friday, just to barely get by. Most of the book is in Billy's own words, through my interviews with him, so that you get his story right....and so that you can draw directly from his wisdom and take what you want from his way of living. Beware. It will take courage to do so.

End Quote 

The article Line Your Pocket App with These Reads by Kristen Daukas was published November 2015 on the blog The Hashtag by Atlantic Web Works. The app, Pocket, is sort of an internet bookmarking thing. Here’s the message from their homepage, 


Build a home for everything that interests you.

Add the “pocket” button to your browser to collect articles, videos, and links from across the web. Use our app to enjoy them on any device in a distraction-free environment.

End Quote 

The article is a collection of recommendations for reading material. But kudos to Kristen for the very clever use of the idiom along with the app’s name. 

Wrap Up

This is a weird phrase to me. It can come across as incredibly negative feedback or simple and practical advice. Money has never been a thing that held the proper meaning for me. I don’t really care about it. I mean, it really is awful to not have enough. But outside of that, I struggle to care how much there is. I recognize this is a flaw in today’s society. So, I’ll view this one as the simple and practical advice version and attempt to… line my pockets… okay, nope. That’s just not me. Alright everyone, if you want to line your pockets, go for it! Just do it in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone else. Perfect. 


That’s about all we have for today. If you have any thoughts on the show, or pop culture references we should have included, reach out to us on social media where we are @bunnytrailspod, or comment on our website


It’s patron poll time!

Recently we posed this question to our Patrons:

What's your favorite non-Earth planet in our star system?

We posed the following options:

  • Mercury

  • Venus

  • Mars

  • Jupiter

  • Saturn

  • Uranus

  • Neptune

Mars came in first with the majority of the votes, followed by a tie between Saturn and Jupiter for second, and then a write-in for Pluto. 

The rest of the planets are feeling the burn of zero votes. 

I don't know why this one is so hard for me. I love Mars because the old school science fiction books assumed aliens would come from Mars, hence Martian. But I also love Saturn with its beautiful rings and awesomely named moons like Titan and Enceladus. And of course Jupiter is massive with a red storm bigger than our own planet. Plus the largest moon in our star system, Ganymede, and maybe our second best chance for life outside Earth behind Europa.

But for all that, I went with Mars. It's our best hope for humans living abroad, which I think would be super cool from a scientific standpoint. And it would make the little kid in me excited to have actual Martians and Earthlings living in the same star system, even though they would both still be humans from the same evolutionary line.  

Mary Halsig Lopez had some thoughts circulating in her mind, 


I love all the planets, but Mars has always been my first love because of my early years of Sci-Fi reading and it is close enough to visit if you're young enough to make the trip. That said, I'm going to do a write-in for Pluto. I still think it got robbed. I mean, there's science behind the decision, but just because it isn't the dominant gravitational force in its area and hasn't cleared its neighborhood, it's now a dwarf planet and kicked off the solar system island!

End Quote


I voted for Mars but it is a close second to Jupiter for me. I suppose my favorite to live on is in fact Earth. However, I loved Ray Bradbury as a kid and the world he built surrounding Mars… well, that stuck with me and I still love the planet. Jupiter is my favorite in different categories - including appearance and sheer cool-factor. As far as planets go, Jupiter is pretty badass. It’s got a giant spot that it shows off with pride. All that swirling going on and Jupiter still holds itself together. Just sayin’, Jupiter is awesome. 


As a reminder, our silly polls mean absolutely nothing and are not scientifically valid. But Patrons of all levels get to take part. Head over to to take this week’s poll!



Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. Until then remember, 


Words belong to their users. 

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