Why do we say that provoking someone is “getting a rise” out of them?

Sometimes there’s nothing quite so satisfying as provoking someone to get so angry, upset, and beside themselves that they are all but sputtering. If you’re a control freak, it’s passive-aggressive heaven. You are totally innocent and in command while they have gone for the bait you casually tossed out and have gotten so furious they can’t think straight.

In fact, going for the bait is what getting a rise out of someone is all about. The expression describes what happens when you go fishing and your baited hook hits the water. If you’re lucky, a fish will spot it and come up from the depths to impale itself on your hook. You’ve gotten a rise out of it. But poor fishy: he’s sunk.

Source: Why You Say It: The Fascinating Stories behind Over 600 Everyday Words and Phrases by Webb Garrison
Digg Google Bookmarks reddit Mixx StumbleUpon Technorati Yahoo! Buzz DesignFloat Delicious BlinkList Furl