I think it means that it is not obvious to other people who the fool is, so the mere act of entering an argument with a fool is an automatic loss. Not sure this is the true meaning of the idiom though.

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    Yes for the first part of the sentence. 'an automatic loss' seems a bit too sever an inference. It all just means you will probably look like a fool, too.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 16:57
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    GB Shaw: never wrestle with a pig. You just get dirty, and the pig likes it.
    – user175542
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 18:19
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    a similar saying (or a response, more often) is "I won't sink to that level" or don't "sink to his level" (sometimes said "stoop down to that level")
    – Tom22
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 18:20
  • "Never play chess with pigeons - they knock over the pieces, poop on the chessboard, and fly away convinced they've won." - meaning, if someone doesn't know the rules of discourse or debate, they won't follow them either. Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 18:33

1 Answer 1


The expression means that a fool's statements will illustrate to others that he is indeed a fool, but to argue with him will make you appear foolish as well. Thus bystanders will see two fools.

A similar saying is "never argue with an idiot, lest he pull you down to his level and beat you with experience." The meaning here is, a fool/idiot/rube always speaks crudely or rudely or simply, without facts or logic, so if you throw away the rules you usually follow, you will be on unfamiliar ground, and your opponent will not.

  • Excellent! (I never heard that ...and beat you with experience quip before :) Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 17:16

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