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In a recent exchange with a highly eloquent friend (we were discussing a particularly peculiar episode he has pointed to me in a book) he replied to my comments on the episode with an idiom I've never heard before (being an ESL guy). He said literally "Not biting, eh?". What does this mean?

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why didn't you ask him? –  Louis Rhys Jun 23 '11 at 2:45
    
I did, he took it as me denying I was not biting, the reaction I only completely understood after I asked this question –  zvolkov Jun 23 '11 at 19:17

3 Answers 3

up vote 20 down vote accepted

"Not taking the bait", from fishing, meaning someone offered you a conversational opening (or an invitation to an argument) and you didn't follow up.

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To bite in this context means "to respond to a provocation or temptation". The phrase is understood to refer to a fish biting a baited hook, or possibly to Eve biting into the forbidden fruit.

So in context, something had happened that your friend expected to elicit a response from you. When you didn't respond as expected or intended, he remarked that you were "not biting".

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The other answers are great. Another way it's used is when I read a provocative article (as JSB suggests) and in response I'd say "Ok, I'll bite." I then offer my thoughts on the subject.

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