Is there anything you would touch with a ten foot pole?
And why ten feet?
Must be long enough.
This term, I wouldn’t touch that, is old, first appearing in the mid-1700’s and it went “I wouldn’t touch that with a barge pole.”
Barge poles were exactly what they sound like: long wooden poles used to push barges along a canal.
It replaced an older expression, “not to be handled with tongs.”
Later “barge pole” morphed into ten foot pole.
But here’s another possible origin: this expression comes from a burial practice in New Orleans.
The Spanish developed a burial system by first placing the casket in an above ground tomb.
Exactly one year and one day after burial, they opened the tomb and removed the body from the casket.
They wrapped the body in a sheet and shoved it to the bottom of the tomb using a ten foot pole.
The weather in southern Louisiana caused bodies to decompose quickly and they could use the same tomb over and over….and stack bodies on top of each other, saving space.
I wouldn’t touch that body with a ten foot pole.