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hem and haw
To speak in an evasive, vague, roundabout way in order to avoid responding to a question or making a definite statement. The phrase comes from the common filler words often used by habit or when one is deciding what to say. How much longer do we have to hear this guy hem and haw? I wish they would get on with the debate.
hum and haw
To speak in an evasive, vague, roundabout way in order to avoid responding to a question or making a definite statement. The phrase comes from the common filler words often used by habit or when one is deciding what to say. Primarily heard in UK. How much longer do we have to hear this guy hum and haw? I wish they would get on with the debate.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
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.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
hem and hawBRITISH, AMERICAN or
hum and hawBRITISH
If you hem and haw or hum and haw, you take a long time to say something because you cannot think of the right words, or because you are not sure what to say. Tim hemmed and hawed, but finally told his boss the truth. My mother hummed and hawed at first, but eventually she sent her agreement. Note: People sometimes use hum and ha with the same meaning. Abu hummed and ha-ed a little.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
hum and haw (or ha)hesitate; be indecisive. British
The word hum has been used as an inarticulate syllable in hesitant speech since Chaucer; ha appears in a similar role from the early 17th century.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
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).
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
hem and haw, to
To avoid giving a definite answer. This expression is imitative of the sounds made in clearing the throat or making a slight noise to attract attention, signify agreement, or express doubt. Its use to express indecision began in the early eighteenth century. Jonathan Swift’s poem “My Lady’s Lamentation” (1728) had one version: “He haws and he hums. At last out it comes.” Much later Bliss Carman defined it poetically: “Hem and Haw were the sons of sin, created to shally and shirk; Hem lay ’round and Haw looked on while God did all the work” (“Hem and Haw,” 1896).
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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.
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price