described as "a cheating game played with a stick and a belt or string, so arranged that a spectator would think he could make the latter fast by placing a stick through its intricate folds, whereas the operator could detach it at once." [James O. Halliwell, "Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words," 1847]. The figurative sense (1550s) is recorded earlier than the literal (1570s).
fast and loose
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