‘On The Fence’ – Where Does The Expression Come From

picket fence, on the fence expressionYou probably have heard the expression ‘on the fence’ before. It is a rather common idiom used in English to describe someone’s lack of decisiveness, or hesitance to choose between two sides in an argument or a competition. It can also refer to the inability to decide due to a lack of courage.  Some people do this either to remain on good terms with both sides or just don’t care enough about the issue at hand and choose to not take a position. Fences, as you know, often define properties and ownership, so sitting ‘on the fence’ literally would mean sitting between two properties.  Metaphorically, sitting ‘on the fence’ is straddling the position between two ideas without committing to either of them. For instance, if you don’t know which basketball team to root for, you are on the fence.

Origin Of The Idiom

The idiom has its roots in Middle English, according to experts. Back the word fens, which is short for defens, was used first. They say later, an “e” was added to the term to form the word defense as it is used today. The phrase ‘on the fence’ has been in popular use since the 1800.

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