If you’re trying to have a conversation, but someone tells you to “put a pin in it,” what do they mean? Should you be offended?
We’re here to answer all your burning, pin-related questions. So read on before you take offense!
Put a Pin in It – Meaning
The phrase “put a pin in it” is an idiom that means to hold on to a thought or idea and return to it at a later time. It is said to have originated in World War II in reference to the pins placed in hand grenades.
- The phrase “put a pin in it” means to hold a thought for a later time.
- It originates from World War II references to placing a pin back in a grenade to prevent an explosion.
- It also has figurative links to the practice of etymologists preserving insects by pining them on a board.
In recent years, people tend to use “put a pin in it” figuratively to mean that you should keep a thought in mind so it can be discussed later:
- I think you make a good point, but let’s put a pin in it for now.
- Let’s put a pin in that for now and talk about it when we get home.
This expression musters up the image of a corkboard with various pins in it to hold up important information. Essentially, this means that by “putting a pin in it,” you are pinning up the thought so that it is on display for when you want to come back and look at it.
This phrase also carries some negative connotations, however. After all, people may use it to avoid important conversations. Thus, even though they are telling someone to “put a pin in it,” they have no real intention of returning to the issue later.
Put a Pin in It – Origin
There is some speculation about the true origins of the phrase “put a pin in it.” However, most people agree that it comes from a WWII expression to do with putting a pin back in a grenade so that it doesn’t explode.
This conjures the image of leaving a conversation for later so that it doesn’t explode into an argument.
One of the first examples where the phrase “stick a pin in it” was used figuratively is in an 1859 book by Thomas Chandler Haliburton. It is entitled Nature and Human Nature and contains the following passage:
- “Stick a pin in that, Doctor,” says I, “for it’s worth rememberin’ as a wise saw.”
In this book, a character points out that this phrase may have something to do with etymologists sticking pins in insects to preserve them:
- “Stick a pin in it. What a queer phrase; and yet it’s expressive, too. It’s the way I preserve my insects.”
Put a Pin in It – Synonyms
The phrase “put a pin in it” means to hold a thought for later. Therefore, synonyms for this phrase would express similar sentiments.
- Save that for later
- Hold that thought
- I’ll get back to you on that
- We’ll discuss this later
In What Situations Can You Use “Put a Pin in It”?
You can use the phrase “put a pin in it” to suggest that a certain idea or topic of conversation should be shelved for now and reopened at a later time.
This could be because it’s a conversation better suited for privacy. Or because you simply don’t have all the information you need just yet.
Sometimes, people might use this phrase to avoid a conversation they don’t want to have. Thus, they suggest leaving the conversation for later but make an effort never to bring the topic back up.
Incorrect Ways to Use “Put a Pin in It”?
The phrase “put a pin in it” means to hold onto a thought or topic for later.
Therefore, you should not confuse this expression with the phrase “pin it on.” This means to blame someone for something, usually a crime.
Sometimes, people use this phrase to suggest someone has a big head. Thus, they should “stick a pin in it” to deflate it. However, this is not recognized as the usual meaning behind this phrase.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.