phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: Tiger by the tail

Posted by Henry on May 12, 2003

In Reply to: Re: Tiger by the tail posted by ESC on May 12, 2003

: : Can anyone give me the origin and meaning(s) of the expression "having a tiger by the tail"?

: I can give you the meaning but none of my references gave an origin. I took a guess:

: HAVE A TIGER BY THE TAIL - "Cope with an obsession; pursue an idea, a talent or even a vice obsessively; face a trying problem." From "Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

: There's a similar proverb: "He who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount - Once a dangerous or troublesome venture is begun, the safest course is to carry it through to the end. 1875 W. Scarborough 'Collection of Chinese Proverbs.'" But I am guess "tiger by the tail" might have to do with "The Story of Little Black Sambo" by Helen Bannerman:
: ".And the Tigers were very, very
: angry, but still they would not let go of each other's tails.
: And they were so angry, that they ran round the tree,
: trying to eat each other up, and they ran faster
: and faster, till they were whirling round so fast
: that you couldn't see their legs at all.

: And they still ran faster and faster and faster, till
: they all just melted away, and there was nothing
: left but a great big pool of melted butter (or
: 'ghi,' as it is called in India) round
: the foot of the tree."
: http://www.ishipress.com/sambo.htm Accessed May 12, 2003.

Once you let go of the tiger's tail, it is going to eat you!

I think the phrase means that you've taken up a position which you thought would give you control but in fact is going to be very difficult or dangerous to escape from.