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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 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

hem and haw (around)

Inf. to be uncertain about something; to be evasive; to say "ah" and "eh" when speaking—avoiding saying something meaningful. Stop hemming and hawing around. I want an answer. Don't just hem and haw around. Speak up. We want to hear what you think.
See also: and, haw, hem

hem someone or something in

Fig. to trap or enclose someone or something. The large city buildings hem me in. Don't hem in the bird. Let it have a way to escape.
See also: hem

hem and haw

to pause a lot and avoid saying something directly When asked what kind of woman he was looking for, he hemmed and hawed and finally admitted he was looking for a party girl.
See also: and, haw, hem

hem in somebody/something

also hem somebody/something in
to surround someone or something They found themselves hemmed in by the crowd. The building was hemmed in by high walls.
See also: hem

hum and haw

  (mainly British) also hem and haw (American & Australian)
to take a long time to say something and speak in a way that is not clear, in order to avoid giving an answer He hemmed and hawed and finally admitted taking the money. (mainly British)
See also: and, haw, hum

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

hem and haw

Be hesitant and indecisive; avoid committing oneself, as in When asked about their wedding date, she hemmed and hawed, or The President hemmed and hawed about new Cabinet appointments. This expression imitates the sounds of clearing one's throat. [Late 1700s]
See also: and, haw, hem

hem in

1. To surround and enclose someone or something: Tall mountains hemmed in the valley. The troops hemmed their enemy in on all sides.
2. To restrict or confine someone or something: Don't hem me in with all these regulations. The police hemmed in the rowdy crowd.
See also: hem

hem and haw

To be hesitant and indecisive; equivocate: "a leader who cannot make up his or her mind, never knows what to do, hems and haws" (Margaret Thatcher).
See also: and, haw, hem

hem and haw

To refuse to give a definite answer. “Hem,” similar in derivation to the interjection “ahem,” meant to hesitate. “Haw” meant much the same sense of being noncommittal. Combine the two, and you have someone who's stalling for time and hoping not to have to respond any further.
See also: and, haw, hem
References in classic literature ?
But later I perceived that we were no longer hemmed in, that now we might get away.
Then when they had made the whole place quite clean and orderly, they took the women out and hemmed them in the narrow space between the wall of the domed room and that of the yard, so that they could not get away: and Telemachus said to the other two, "I shall not let these women die a clean death, for they were insolent to me and my mother, and used to sleep with the suitors.
He had known plenty of trouble and vexation since he had been a lad, but this was the first sorrow that had hemmed in his voice, and strangely enough it was sorrow because the chief source of his past trouble and vexation was for ever gone out of his reach.
Let the Achaeans be hemmed in at the sterns of their ships, and perish on the sea-shore, that they may reap what joy they may of their king, and that Agamemnon may rue his blindness in offering insult to the foremost of the Achaeans.
Hemmed in by these stupendous barriers, the valley would be altogether shut out from the rest of the world, were it not that it is accessible from the sea at one end, and by a narrow defile at the other.
With that thought I rolled my eves nervously around on the barriers of iron that hemmed me in.
His object was to fight his way to the cabin, where there were fire-arms; but he was hemmed in with foes, covered with wounds, and faint with loss of blood.