Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
(there are) too many chiefs and not enough Indians
There are too many people trying to manage or organize something, and not enough people willing to actually do the work. One of many expressions often considered offensive for making reference to Native American stereotypes or tropes. Everyone wants to be the brains of this project, but there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians!
an Indian giver
A person who asks the return of or takes back a gift after they have given it. One of many expressions often considered offensive for making reference to Native American stereotypes or tropes. I'm sorry to be an Indian giver like this, but I'm afraid I need the $50 back that I gave you last week.
An expression used to emphasize the veracity of one's statement. Based on a colloquial spelling of "Indian" (i.e., Native American). One of many expressions often considered offensive for making reference to Native American stereotypes or tropes. Primarily heard in US. I swear it wasn't me who broke the lamp, honest injun!
in Indian file
In a line one person or one thing in width; in single file. One of many expressions often considered offensive for making reference to Native American stereotypes or tropes. The students lined up and marched in Indian file toward the auditorium.
1. noun A line one person or one thing in width; single file. One of many expressions often considered offensive for making reference to Native American stereotypes or tropes. An Indian file of geese—such an unusual flight pattern for the bird—crossed overhead as we traversed the field.
2. adverb In such a line. The students lined up and walked Indian file into the auditorium.
1. A period of unseasonably warm weather in early fall. I know it's September, but don't get out your winter clothes just yet—this area often has an Indian summer. I hate the cold weather, so I'm hoping for an Indian summer.
2. A particularly peaceful, successful, or enjoyable time as something nears its end. As her illness worsened, my grandmother still enjoyed painting, so I think she had an Indian summer before her death. I wonder if people sensed that they were in an Indian summer just before the Great Depression.
the Indian sign
A curse or spell placed upon a person that causes persistent misfortune or a loss of volition. One of many expressions often considered offensive for making reference to Native American stereotypes or tropes. With my business crumbling, my wife having left me, and now this car accident, it feels like I've got the Indian sign on me. Be careful of a woman like that, son—she'll hang the Indian sign on you.
Too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
Prov. Too many people want to be the leader, and not enough people are willing to follow to do the detail work. Everyone on that committee wants to be in charge. Too many chiefs and not enough Indians. We'll never finish this project if everyone keeps trying to give orders. There are too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
One who takes or demands back one's gift to another, as in Jimmy wanted to take back Dan's birthday present, but Mom said that would make him an Indian giver . This term, now considered offensive, originally alluded to the Native American practice of expecting a gift in return for one that is given. [Colloquial; early 1800s]
A period of mild, sunny weather occurring in late autumn, usually following a seasonable cold spell. For example, We had two whole days of Indian summer this year, and then it turned cold again. [Late 1700s]
single file, in
Also, in Indian file. Aligned one behind the other, as in We have to bike in single file here, or The children were told to march in Indian file. Both usages are associated with military formations; the first term was first recorded in 1670; the variant, alluding to the usual marching order of Native Americans, was first recorded in 1758.
See also: single
too many chiefs and not enough IndiansOFFENSIVE or
too many chiefs
If there are too many chiefs or too many chiefs and not enough Indians in an organization, there are too many people in charge and not enough people doing the work. This bank has 21 executive directors. No surprise, then, that some insiders say there are too many chiefs.
an Indian summermainly BRITISH
An Indian summer is a period of great success late in someone's life or career, often after a period of not being successful. Despite an unexpected Indian Summer, they never really lived up to their initial promise. Note: An Indian summer is a period of unusually warm sunny weather during the autumn.
too many chiefs and not enough Indiansused to describe a situation where there are too many people giving orders and not enough people to carry them out.
Indian summer1 a period of dry, warm weather occurring in late autumn. 2 a tranquil or productive period in someone's later years.
2 1930 Vita Sackville-West The Edwardians Meanwhile she was quite content that Sebastian should become tanned in the rays of Sylvia's Indian summer.
honest Injunhonestly; really. dated
there are too many ˌchiefs and not enough ˈIndians(British English, informal) used to describe a situation in which there are too many people telling other people what to do, and not enough people to do the work
(in) single/Indian ˈfilein a line, one person after another: The whole class walked along behind the teacher in single file.When American Indians walked in a group, each person walked in the footsteps of the person in front so that they could not be counted by the enemy.
an ˌIndian ˈsummer
1 a period of unusually dry, warm weather in the autumn: We had a splendid Indian summer last October.
2 a period of success or happiness near the end of somebody’s life: He made his best movies in his seventies; it was for him a real Indian summer.
too many chiefs and not enough Indians
Too many bosses and not enough workers. This expression, also stated more hyperbolically as all chiefs and no Indians, originated in the first half of the 1900s. Although the term refers to native American tribal organization, it is not considered offensive.
Someone who gives a gift and then wants it returned. Native Americans' economy was based on the barter system; therefore, an item that colonists and settlers took to be an outright gift was expected to be reciprocated. When it was not, the giver wanted the item returned. The offensive phrase, which first appeared in mid-18th-century New England, is now rarely used . . . and properly so.