hem and haw

(redirected from hemmed and hawed)

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

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 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 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

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

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

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 periodicals archive ?
The Knight hemmed and hawed that they were men only I responded that I would accept a membership form when he was able to offer one to the lady.
Even in what we can assume was a non-threatening situation with a benign question, Richards hemmed and hawed, sputtered and restarted after she jettisoned whatever talking point she initially had in mind.
At first Ferrara hemmed and hawed, saying: "They made me swear to keep my mouth shut.
On the other side is Marwan Barghouti, 45, who hemmed and hawed before finally declaring his candidacy last week.
I hemmed and hawed for several minutes until he walked away in frustration.
They hemmed and hawed, analyzed the situation, searched for reasons that the change happened--and even tried to pinpoint who was responsible for the change.
He told me that when he had asked a company executive how much cash was being generated by the company's agents, the executive hemmed and hawed.
They clucked, they hemmed and hawed, and "moved on" to put the "problem" proverbially behind them.
Ambivalent Bigwigs hemmed and hawed about SP-apparently unsure about its potential in the marketplace.
s leading publisher of pop culture," Boxtree managing director Adrian Sington admitted he was at a loss for words when once asked to define pop culture: "I hemmed and hawed and finally came up with (a definition): Variety.
Bush hemmed and hawed as the military junta settled in and terrorized the Haitian people; thousands fled to the United States.
The agents hemmed and hawed over the complaint until the 36 hours lapsed.