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Sitting on the fence

Posted by Smokey Stover on February 14, 2010 at 17:47

In Reply to: Sitting on the fence posted by Brian from Shawnee on February 14, 2010 at 17:27:

: : : What is the origin of the phrase "sitting on the fence"?

: : I think the allusion is fairly straightforward. If I sit astride my garden fence, one leg either side (I imagine it would uncomfortable, so I don't do it often, or indeed, at all) I am neither on one side nor the other, but 'distributed' evenly between the two, and can, with equal ease, drop to either side.

: : DFG

: There may also be an implication that the politican or whoever is on the fence, is trying to decide which side to jump off.
I think Brian and David are both right, but sometimes people remain sitting on the fence because they don't want to have to choose, or don't want their preference known.

If you are familiar with American history you know of the Mugwumps. Their political character was derisively described by their opponents something like: "A mugwump is a bird usually to be seen sitting on a fence, with its mug on one side and its wump on the other. When it flies, it flies backwards, to see where it has been."

(The word "mugwump" has a history too complicated to relate here. See, if you are interested: