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Played both sides of the fence

Posted by ESC on January 04, 2003

In Reply to: Origin of fence phrase posted by Dianne on January 03, 2003

: I am searching for the origin of the phrase that goes something like: (he) played both sides of the fence.
: I am thinking possibly Chaucer,,,any one have a lead?

I couldn't find the phrase "played both sides of the fence." I looked in general references and in a sports phrase book. I found a similar phrase:

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).