beat around/about the bush, to(redirected from to beat around/about the bush)
beat around/about the bush, to
Indirection in word or deed; to shilly-shally, to approach something in a roundabout way. This expression for overcautiousness dates from the early sixteenth century, when Robert Whytynton (Vulgaria, 1520) warned, “a longe betynge aboute the busshe and losse of time.” Some authorities think it came from beating the bushes for game, and indeed there are numerous sayings concerning the delays caused by too much beating and not enough bird-catching, dating back even further. (See also beat the bushes for.) Although the days of beaters seem remote, the phrase survives as a common cliché.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer