Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Beat around the bush

What is the meaning and origin of beat around the bush?

Sometimes when someone asks us a question, we try and avoid answering it. It's not because we don't know the answer; the answer is rather embarrassing. Therefore, instead of giving the person a direct answer, we go about answering his question in a roundabout way. This indirect way of answering questions is called 'beating about/around the bush'. Very often, people beat about the bush in order to conceal their intention.

*For God's sake, stop beating about/around the bush. How much is it going to cost?

*Will you please stop beating around/about the bush? Just answer my question.

The expression comes from the rather cruel sport of 'batfowling'. In this sport, people ('batfowlers') entered the forest during the night and proceeded to kill 'fowls' (birds) with the 'bats' or clubs they were carrying. The batfowlers and the servants that they took with them used to scare birds by beating around the bush in which they were sleeping. The sleepy birds, dazed and confused by the sudden commotion, would then fly directly to the bright lights that the men were carrying. Here they were beaten to death. The men who were beating about the bush were not really interested in the birds that were sleeping there. Therefore, when someone beats around the bush, he is concealing the thing that he is interested in; he doesn't come to the point directly.

Artivle idea: From The Hindu magazine dated on october 7.