What does the idiom "He's sitting on the fence" mean?
Are you using the idiom He's sitting on the fence but not sure about its meaning? Using idioms, which are important elements of spoken and written language, in the right place strengthens your language skills. Examine the meaning of the He's sitting on the fence idiom and the situations in which it is used.
Meaning of "He's sitting on the fence"
The phrase “sitting on the fence” is used to describe a situation where someone is unable to make a decision or commitment and is instead trying to remain neutral in the matter. It is typically used to describe a person who is trying to remain impartial on a subject, avoiding taking a stand either way, or perhaps trying to remain undecided, as if they were perched on a fence, unable to choose a side.
The phrase “sitting on the fence” originated in the United States, with the earliest written uses of the phrase appearing in the late 1800s. It first appeared in print in 1884, in a newspaper article in the St. Paul Daily Globe. The phrase quickly caught on, and by the 1900s it was being used in print in other newspapers and publications, as well as in popular speech.
The phrase “sitting on the fence” is typically used to describe a person who is trying to remain impartial on a subject or undecided on a issue, either because it’s not their decision to make, or because they are unwilling to make a commitment. It is also used to describe someone who is trying to remain neutral in a situation in order to avoid taking sides. The phrase can also be used in a derogatory manner to describe someone who is indecisive or overly cautious, or unwilling to take a stand on a particular issue.
- He's been sitting on the fence for weeks, unable to make a decision about whether or not to start his own business.
- The government's been sitting on the fence, unwilling to take a stand on the issue.
- She's not sure which candidate to vote for, so she's sitting on the fence for now.
The Surprising Origins of Everyday English Idioms
Many English idioms have surprisingly dark origins, often rooted in violence, death, and superstition. For instance, the phrase "raining cats and dogs" is said to have originated in the 17th century, when heavy rain would often cause dead animals to wash up on the streets. Meanwhile, the idiom "rule of thumb" is believed to have originated from a law that allowed men to beat their wives with a stick no thicker than their thumb.