(WYTV)- Why do we say some criminals who are on the run are on the lam?
That’s l-a-m with no b, so its origin is not on the farm. We hear the phrase on the lam first in the late 19th century but the expression was “to do a lam,” a slang expression that an 1897 Popular Science article explained as simply “to run.”
But by the turn of the century, to do a lam had morphed into “to go on the lam” which first appeared in print in the early 1900s. It hasn’t changed, we still say someone is on the lam.
The Oxford English Dictionary tells us the original meaning of lam, as a verb, was to beat someone. That’s the 16th century.
Then it gradually became slang and if you were lamming out, you were running from a fight, or the law.