Arm's Length

Posted Jan 7th, 2022 in Jargon

Arm's Length

"Arm's length" and "non-arm's length" – If you were to talk about something being physically "at arms-length" wouldn't that mean exactly the length of your arm?  In other words, you COULD touch it or grab it.  More to the point, if you said something was "non-arms length" or "not at arms-length" would you think that thing was much CLOSER to you than the reach of your fingertips?  Au contraire, mon frere!  I (and most English-speaking people), would assume you meant that thing was TOO FAR AWAY TO TOUCH.  Who coined these terms?  Some half-literate bean counter in the middle ages? How have they become so ubiquitous in accounting jargon to mean the opposite of their literal definitions?  Really, the terms should be "within arms-length" and "beyond arms-length", but how are these ever going to supplant the current cliché?

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