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  • Susan "Zuzu" Skelly

What’s the Connection: Alligator Arms, Football, and Generosity

Do you like to watch or play American football?

Do you know someone who doesn’t like to pay when you all go out?

If you answered ‘yes’ to either of those questions, you might need to talk to someone about their alligator arms. Don’t worry, there are no human-alligator hybrids walking around! It’s just an expression.

American Football

‘Alligator arms’ probably started out as an expression used in sportscasts during football games. During a game, you might hear a commentator say that a receiver who didn’t fully extend their arms to make a catch has alligator arms.

What’s the connection to alligators? Well, a lot like a t-rex, alligators have short arms that just don’t reach very far. An alligator just wouldn’t be a good receiver, would it?

Next time you’re watching a game, listen for things like:

Welker may have had a good shot at that catch had he just extended those alligator arms a bit, but he kept them in, anticipating the hit.

The receiver got scared and grew a pair of alligator arms, thinking he was going to get nailed over the middle.


It’s more common to football, but we could use ‘alligator arms’ when talking about a stingy person. We say this about people who don’t like to pay their part of groups checks or about people who never offer to pay for others. We don’t always expect someone to pay for us, but it’s nice on occasion.

You might use it if you have a friend who reaches for the check at dinners but is always just a bit too late to pick it up first.

He’s got alligator arms.

You could also say it when everyone knows the bill is in the middle of the table but nobody is reaching for their wallets.

All right. You can relax those alligator arms. I’ll get it.

It can be used to talk about someone who never offers to pay for anything.

Jae’s great fun, but those alligator arms of hers make me not want to go for anymore coffees or brunches with her.

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