On the Fence (Origin)
What Is the Origin of the Saying "On the Fence"?The term "on the fence" means undecided. It is often seen the saying "to sit on the fence," which means to avoid picking one side or the other.
Table of Contents
- English Proverbs and Idioms Test
- More Proverbs, Sayings, and Idioms
Examples of Use:
- I'm not backing either candidate. I've decided to sit on the fence.
- You cannot sit on the fence on this issue. You must decide.
- She hasn't agreed or disagreed. She's still on the fence.
A quick look at Google's Ngram Viewer (which scans millions of published articles over the past two centuries) shows that the term was used, albeit rarely, in the early 18th century but did not become popular until around 1860. Also of note, the term was given a boost by the 1884 US election, when a group of Republicans (given the derogatory name "Mugwumps") supported the Democratic candidate. The group was described by their opponents "as birds sitting on a fence" with their "mugs" on one side and their "wumps" on the other.