The Surprising Meaning and Origin of the Idiom 'Beat Around the Bush'
Neha B Deshpande
May 4, 2019
The idiom 'beat around the bush' means to avoid talking about a topic directly, and trying to approach it indirectly. This is because the person conveying the message is apprehensive of the reaction from the opposite party.
The Other Bush Idiom
As against 'beating around the bush', the idiom 'beat the bush' means trying very hard to do something.
There are many situations in our life that we come across when we wish to convey something to a person, which puts us in an uncomfortable situation.
Consider a guy who wishes to propose to a girl. If he feels nervous about her reaction, he will try to talk things indirectly, in a desperate bid to give her suggestions and hints. Thus, he will try to 'beat around the bush', which means that, he is avoiding to talk straight to the point.
We usually beat around the bush when we are apprehensive of the reaction of the other person whom we want to convey a message to. We all tend to do that when we are in an embarrassing situation which we do not want to deal with, and feel a little uncomfortable while speaking the truth.
Such nervousness can be seen if you're anxious about the reaction of the opposite party. It can also mean going off track and talking irrelevant things, avoiding the central issue completely.
Beat Around the Bush: Origin and Examples
Where Did 'Beat Around the Bush' Come From?
It is said that traditionally, hunters used to hire 'beaters' who would literally beat the bushes so that the birds and wild beast who used the bushes as their hiding ground would either fly or run out. This would make the hunter's task of chasing and hunting them much easier.
However, other than harmless animals, many wild beast, like the wild boar, would hide in the bushes. Tusks of the wild boar are very sharp, and hence, the beaters were obviously wary of this task due to the fear of getting hurt.
Thus, instead of beating the bush, they used to beat 'around' the bush. That explains the meaning of this idiom. We usually tend to use this idiom when we are scared what the reaction of the opposite party might turn out to be. Here are some examples:
At an interview, Jason says, "With all due respect, I am not going to beat around the bush, but I cannot accept this job offer if you offer me less than ......"
At an introduction session of a new batch of employees, their boss says, "I don't like employees who beat around the bush. If you have any problem, come to me directly and speak straight to the point."
Melissa: "Look Bertha, I am tired of beating around the bush now. Let me come straight to the point, you should end your relationship with Jake, since it is doing no good to both of you."
At a function, Sarah's date does not turn up. She calls him and asks, "Where are you? And do not beat around the bush. Just tell me whether you're coming or not!"
"Stop beating around the bush, and tell me whether you picked up the groceries from the store!"
"I don't have the heart to tell Harry that he failed the examination! I am simply beating around the bush since morning!"
This idiom is commonly used in our daily life, yet, many of us are unaware of its interesting history. Though we might feel pitiful about the plight of the beaters, we can thank them for the birth of this interesting idiom.
Language would be, perhaps, so monotonous and boring without idioms! Well, every idiom has its own story, and that story is certainly worth knowing about!