What does the idiom "He's sitting on the fence" mean?

You are wondering about the meaning of the phrase He's sitting on the fence, maybe you heard it in a TV show, movie or theater play. Although this idiom is not used very often, it enriches your capacity of expression and strengthens communication. In which case is the expression He's sitting on the fence used and what is its meaning?

Meaning of "He's sitting on the fence"

Meaning

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.

Etymology

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.

Usage

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.

Example Sentences

  • 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 meanings of the words in the "He's sitting on the fence" idiom

The universal role of idioms

"Kill two birds with one stone" is an English idiom that means to accomplish two things with a single action. In French, the similar idiom is "Faire d'une pierre deux coups," which translates to "To kill two birds with one stone." This idiom highlights the efficiency of completing two tasks with one action.

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