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Sit on the Fence


Image: anankkml / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What do you think the English idiom to sit on the fence means?

a) to be better than others

b) to be in a difficult or uncomfortable situation
c) to be undecided or neutral

The answer to the question is the last answer - c. A fence is what you see in the picture above - it marks the border between two properties. When someone is
sitting on the fence or fence-sitting, he is unable or unwilling to choose between two alternatives. In other words, he is undecided or neutral. Perhaps, the decision really is a difficult one and the choice isn’t easy; or, perhaps, the decision maker prefers to remain neutral, not to make his preference known or even to please both sides. Here are some headlines demonstrating the use of to sit on the fence:

August vehicle sales up, but consumers mostly sitting on the fence
-restylingmag.com, August 19 2011, Restyling News
European commission is fence-sitting on body scanners
-guardian.co.uk, June 24 2010, Sarah Ludford
Obama Sitting On the Political Fence
-govinthelab.com, August 9 2011, Gregory Rose

Do you agree with the following quote?

A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground.
-H. L. Menken

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