hem and haw

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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.
See also: and, haw, hem
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 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.
See also: and, haw, hem
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]
See also: and, haw, hem
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 haw

BRITISH, AMERICAN or

hum and haw

BRITISH
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.
See also: and, haw, hem
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

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
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).
See also: and, hem
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.
See also: and, haw, hem
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price
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References in periodicals archive ?
When a reporter forces them to speak about her, it tends to provoke much staring at shoes, hemming and hawing, and ultimately some form of praise about the "energy" she brings to the party, reports Politico.
He captured the film's stressed, jerky footage entirely on digital, mostly with the Red One camera, which he says the producers picked after some hemming and hawing.
No hemming and hawing. This is that trip to City Hall you never expected to take.
Reinfeld cut him off at the pass by asking, "Meyer, is your wife your best friend?" The man began hemming and hawing and wouldn't give a direct answer.
After hemming and hawing for a week, Ann Veneman, head of the USDA, finally issued several new rules that the government should have imposed years ago.
While some vehicle manufacturers are researching and developing, or hemming and hawing, Toyota, which is certainly on track to achieving a technology position that's commensurate with its quality and productivity positions (which ought to scare the hell right out of vehicle manufacturers everywhere), has been deliberately working toward bringing alternative power trains to the streets of the world.
AFTER HEMMING AND HAWING (The Japan Times, an English-language daily)
After much hemming and hawing, the Senate finally followed up on a House effort to protect American consumers from the threat of excessive Internet access taxes.
The result--an idealized version of America rendered in Walt Disney's magic kingdom--may be deemed simply silly or contemptible, as some have done, or enchanting and reassuring, as many more have decided." All this hemming and hawing would be fine in the introduction to a book, when you're defining the terms--but in the epilogue, when you're already supposed to have sorted out the hem from the haw, it's perilously close to ...
Arlen Specter--heretofore known for creating the single--bullet theory for the Warren Commission, hemming and hawing with Anita Hill, appearing post-brain surgery with a shaved head, and voting aye on massive government spending even claims to be one.
To laughter Gargano acknowledged, "Yes, it has taken 25 years of careful consideration, and some might even call it hemming and hawing, for a governor to come around who is committed to those goals."
No more hemming and hawing about not knowing exactly how to define or allocate costs.
After hemming and hawing for some time whether or not to run for public office, it appears Ara Mina has already made up her mind and come to a conclusion.
The 65th Miss Universe competition, which the Philippines is hosting after much hemming and hawing on the part of organizers, now has the backing of the two only Philippine Miss Universe titlists before Pia Alonso Wurtzbach finally won the crown again for the country after four decades in 2015.