fence


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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.
See also: fence

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.
See also: fence, swing

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.
See also: animal, fence

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.
See also: fence

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.
See also: fence, out

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.
See also: fence, off

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.
See also: fence

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.
See also: fence, good, make, neighbor

*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.
See also: fence, on

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.
See also: fence, on, sit

sit on the fence

(about something) Go to on the fence (about something).
See also: fence, on, sit

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.
See also: fence, straddle

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."
See also: fence, on

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.
See also: fence, mend

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
See also: fence, mend

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.
See also: fence, on, sit

fence in

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.
See also: fence

fence with

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]
See also: fence

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.
See also: fence, mend

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

fence hanger

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.
See also: fence, hanger

fenced

mod. angry. (California.) Boy, was that old man fenced!
See also: fence

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.
See also: fence

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.
See also: fence, straddle

on the fence

Informal
Undecided as to which of two sides to support; uncommitted or neutral.
See also: fence, on

mend fences

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).
See also: fence, mend

straddle the fence

Informal
To be undecided or uncommitted.
See also: fence, straddle
References in classic literature ?
That's right; and Sir Cecil could have that sword the Admiral threw away by the fence here.
You may remember," said the priest quietly, "that the wooden fence that might have carried it was cut away.
We weren't talking of real fences," said Lucy, laughing.
I only denied--" And he swept off on the subject of fences again, and was brilliant.
He spoke seriously to Tom across the fence on the subject of his passion.
At any rate, the fact remains that, as that fateful vegetable changed hands across the fence, something resembling a proposal of marriage did actually proceed from him.
When they got to the top of the fence they began to get down on the other side and soon were in the forest.
So, finding they could not destroy me, they drove me into this forest and built a fence around me.
During the years he had served as master of fence at the English Court the sons of royalty had learned to thrust and parry and cut as only De Vac could teach the art; and he had been as conscientious in the discharge of his duties as he had been in his unswerving hatred and contempt for his pupils.
I don't think it's such a very wonderful thing to walk a little, low, board fence," she said.
It must be wonderful, one that will be able to dance, fence, and turn somersaults.
Going into the shady outer room, he took down from the wall his veil, that hung on a peg, and putting it on, and thrusting his hands into his pockets, he went into the fenced-in bee-garden, where there stood in the midst of a closely mown space in regular rows, fastened with bast on posts, all the hives he knew so well, the old stocks, each with its own history, and along the fences the younger swarms hived that year.
In some strange way, she knew not how, his head had become wedged at the neck between the tops of the pickets of her fence.
I had but newly finished my fence, and began to enjoy my labour, when the rains came on, and made me stick close to my first habitation; for though I had made me a tent like the other, with a piece of a sail, and spread it very well, yet I had not the shelter of a hill to keep me from storms, nor a cave behind me to retreat into when the rains were extraordinary.
The fields about it were overgrown with brambles, the fences gone, even the few negro quarters, and out-houses generally, fallen partly into ruin by neglect and pillage; for the negroes and poor whites of the vicinity found in the building and fences an abundant supply of fuel, of which they availed themselves without hesitation, openly and by daylight.