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fence with (someone)
In a conversation, to evade or avoid directly answering someone or something. Ever the sly spin doctor, the candidate was able to deftly fence with the journalist around questions of his dubious background.
swing for the fences
1. baseball Literally, to put all one's power into one's swing while batting so as to try to hit a home run. All they need is two more runs to win the game, so you can bet their star batter will come out swinging for the fences.
2. By extension, to put forward one's maximum amount of effort or energy (into or toward something); to act or perform with great intensity or effort. I wasn't sure about their state-appointed lawyer at first, but I was well impressed when he came out swinging for the fences on day one of the trial.
mend (one's) fences
To rectify a damaged relationship. After Jill heard that her father had become ill, she decided it was time for them to mend their fences before it was too late. The politician tried to mend his fences with his constituents after the scandal, but was not able to regain their trust before the next election.
fence an animal in
to enclose an animal and its area within a fence or barrier. We fenced the dog in to keep it at home. We had to fence in the dog.
fence someone in
to restrict someone in some way. I don't want to fence you in, but you have to get home earlier at night. Don't try to fence me in. I need a lot of freedom. Your last stupid move fenced in the department, making us less effective.
fence (someone or an animal) out
to keep someone or an animal out with a fence or barrier. We decided that living in the woods was satisfactory only if we fenced the wildlife out. We had to fence out the deer. We hoped we had fenced prowlers out with the tall electric fence.
fence someone or something off (from something)
to separate someone or something from something else with a fence or barrier. We fenced the children's play area off from the rest of the yard. Dave fenced off the play area. We fenced off the children from the rest of the yard.
fence something in
to enclose an area within a fence. When they fenced the garden in, they thought the deer wouldn't be able to destroy the flowers. We fenced in the yard to make a safe place for the children.
Good fences make good neighbors.
Prov. It is easier to be friendly with your neighbor if neither of you trespasses upon the other's property or privacy. Jane: The guy next door is letting his party guests wander across our lawn again. Alan: I guess we'll have to build a fence there. Good fences make good neighbors, like they say.
*on the fence (about something)
Fig. undecided about something. (*Typically: be ~; sit ~.) Ann is on the fence about going to Mexico. I wouldn't be on the fence. I'd love to go.
sit on the fence
Fig. not to take sides in a dispute; not to make a clear choice between two possibilities. (Fig. on the image of someone straddling a fence, representing indecision.) When Jane and Tom argue, it is best to sit on the fence and not make either of them angry. No one knows which of the candidates Joan will vote for. She's sitting on the fence.
sit on the fence
(about something) Go to on the fence (about something).
straddle the fence
Fig. to support both sides of an issue. (As if one were partly on either side of a fence.) The mayor is straddling the fence on this issue, hoping the public will forget it. The legislator wanted to straddle the fence until the last minute, and that alone cost her a lot of votes.
on the fence
not able to decide something Many consumers are still on the fence, waiting to see if a better, less expensive computer will come along.
Usage notes: often used with sit: Most people sit on the fence and would rather say "maybe" than "yes" or "no."
mend (your) fences
to repair a relationship with someone The mayor is trying to mend fences with members of the city council so they will approve his plan.
mend (your) fences
to try to become friendly again with someone after an argument (usually + with ) China is trying to mend fences with Russia after the recent border dispute.See change ways
sit on the fence
to delay making a decision when you have to choose between two sides in an argument or a competition She criticized members of the committee for sitting on the fence and failing to make a useful contribution to the debate.
Also, hem in. Restrict or confine someone, as in He wanted to take on more assignments but was fenced in by his contract, or Their father was old-fashioned and the children were hemmed in by his rules. Both expressions transfer a literal form of enclosure to a figurative one. The first gained currency from a popular song in the style of a cowboy folk song by Cole Porter, "Don't Fence Me In" (1944), in which the cowboy celebrates open land and starry skies. The variant is much older, dating from the late 1500s.
Avoid answering directly, try to evade, as in The mayor was very clever at fencing with the press about his future plans. This expression transfers the parry and thrust of fencing to a verbal exchange. [Second half of 1600s]
mend one's fences
Improve poor relations; placate personal, political, or business contacts. For example, The senator always goes home weekends and spends time mending his fences. This metaphoric expression dates from an 1879 speech by Senator John Sherman in Mansfield, Ohio, to which he said he had returned "to look after my fences." Although he may have meant literally to repair the fences around his farm there, media accounts of the speech took him to mean campaigning among his constituents. In succeeding decades the term was applied to nonpolitical affairs as well.
on the fence, be
Also, straddle the fence. Be undecided, not committed, as in I don't know if I'll move there; I'm still on the fence, or He's straddling the fence about the merger. This picturesque expression, with its implication that one can jump to either side, at first was applied mainly to political commitments. [Early 1800s]
See also: on
n. someone who cannot decide which side to be on. We need to find a way to persuade the fence hangers to come over to our side.
mod. angry. (California.) Boy, was that old man fenced!
go for the fences
in. to set extremely high goals and do whatever is needed to meet them. (Alludes to attempting to hit a home run against the fences of a baseball stadium.) We are going to go for the fences on this one. Don’t hold back on anything.
straddle the fence
tv. to support both sides of an issue. The mayor is straddling the fence on this issue, hoping the public will forget it.
on the fenceInformal
Undecided as to which of two sides to support; uncommitted or neutral.
To improve poor relations, especially in politics: "Whatever thoughts he may have entertained about mending some fences with [them] were banished" (Conor Cruise O'Brien).
straddle the fenceInformal
To be undecided or uncommitted.