Posted by Bob on January 12, 2005
In Reply to: Straddling/ sitting "on the fence" posted by SR on January 12, 2005
: : : Please could anyone let me know what the meaning is behind the saying "sitting on the fence".
: : Neither in one camp nor the other. Taking the middle position.
: : DFG
: This is from an archived response by ESC.
: ON THE FENCE - "undecided, unwilling to take a position, straddling.The term blossomed in 1828 and was probably in use before that.Carl Schurz, insisting on political independence, described his position (according to James Blaine) 'as that of a man sitting on a fence, with clean boots, watching carefully which way he may leap to keep out of the mud.'." From "Safire's New Political Dictionary" by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993).
Such people were playfully called "mugwumps" in 19th C. American politics, because they rode the fence with their mug on one side, and their "wump" on the other.