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Where does the expression "beat around the bush" come from?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Beat around the bush (meaning "discuss a matter without coming to the point") has been first used in 1570s; its sense has shifted from "make preliminary motions" to "avoid, evade."
See also beat the bushes, which is a way to rouse birds so that they fly into the net which others are holding.

[Reference: Etymonline and the New Oxford American Dictionary.]

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It means the expression came from a hunting technique, isn´t it? –  Inti Soto Feb 26 '11 at 15:52
But what is the root of the expression? Does it come from gardening, where the gardener would just pat the bush without cutting it, etc...?? –  Joshua Robison Feb 26 '11 at 15:52
@Joshua Robison: It comes from hunting. –  kiamlaluno Feb 26 '11 at 15:53

To get birds to fly up so they can be shot, hunters sometimes employ beaters who hit the roosts with sticks. Beating the ground around the bush would also work (presumably), but would be slow and a waste of labour.

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