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Catch the tiger by the tail

Posted by Smokey Stover on May 22, 2006

In Reply to: Catch the tiger by the tail posted by James on May 22, 2006

: What does that mean by " I catch the tiger by the tail"? Have you ever heard of this?

More likely what you heard was "I have (or he has) a tiger by the tail." If you have a tiger by the tail you had better not let go, or the tiger will turn around and hurt you severely. I think this was the situation in a story that I have long since forgotten. (Someone may remember and come to the rescue.) The phrase, or some variant, is often used figuratively (it's hard to imagine it being literally true). If you have gotten into something dangerous that you can't get out of, or don't see your way out of, you have a tiger by the tail.

If you Google the phrase you will find that thousands of people (around 164,000 actually) have found the memorable phrase useful, because it suggests tigers (beautiful creatures) or danger. Fictional encounters with tigers include that of Little Black Sambo (q.v.) and The Lady and the Tiger (Stockton's short story). The best-known poem about a tiger is undoubtedly William Blake's The Tiger, of which the first verse goes:

TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
(There are many more stanzas.) ♪ SS ♪