Straddling/ sitting "on the fence"

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).
: SR

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.