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Meaning of “Beat About The Bush” phrase of Idiom, definition and synonyms use in sentence for Kids and Students.

Beat About The Bush

He bet about the bush whyles others caught the birds.” –GASCOIGNE: Works (1572)

The idiomatic sense of this phrase is to show hesitation in approaching a subject which one intends to discuss.

Sportsmen employ many different methods of drawing or approaching a quarry. Some of these methods are clumsy, others are adroit and subtle. Even animals themselves of the predatory sort often display a cleverness not excelled by man. The hunted beast itself, however, is equally apt at concealment, especially in the presence of an overwhelming force ; its sense of awareness telling it to “lie low.” In such cases mere decoying is unavailing and it becomes necessary to make a frontal attack. This is done by “beating” —either water or ground or cover of any kind, even the air—with noises. The object of this “beating” is to arouse and force the “quarry” from its hiding-place so that a capture or “kill” may be made.

“Cast youre sparehawk in to a tre and beate the bushes” was an injunction in common use when out in the chase in the Middle Ages ; and even in big-game hunting in forest and jungle, metaphorical bushes are similarly beaten. Some animals, however, need to be approached more tentatively and carefully, otherwise the prey would be lost. Thus, instead of “beating the bush” directly, and thereby making a great noise, there is a milder, gentler, more indirect approach ; a circumambient action which eventually forces the animal into the open or into the net. This is called “beating about the bush.”

In certain circumstances it is very necessary thus tentatively and cautiously to broach a delicate subject for discussion, especially when the subject is fraught with some danger. Circumlocution may be inspired merely by tender feelings. On the other hand, when this roundabout course is followed in an excessively hesitating degree—even when the motive be perfectly honest—we are prone to call it shilly-shallying, preferring the more direct method.

The phrase is probably as old as the chase itself.


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