Can’t you push some strings for me?

Ah, the old push/pull mix up.  This was heard in a drunken conversation.  It is a nice mash up of “pull some strings” (use influence with someone to get something done) and “push some buttons” (to do something exactly to get them to do what you want).  Perhaps “push (one’s) weight around” might also be in the mix as it concerns using one’s authority to get something done, similar in meaning to “pushing strings”.   Kudos to Trey Compton for hearing this one and passing it on!

Interestingly, “pushing on a string” does have a specific meaning, particularly in economics.  It is a figure of speech for influence that is more effective in moving things in one direction than another – you can pull, but not push.

If something is connected to someone by a string, they can move it toward themselves by pulling on the string, but they cannot move it away from themselves by pushing on the string. It is often used in the context of economic policy, specifically the view that “Monetary policy [is] asymmetric; it being easier to stop an expansion than to end a severe contraction.  Wikipedia.