What is the origin of the expression: kick things into long grass? I hear of it in the context of political inaction.

to react to a difficult problem by doing something to make sure that people will forget about it rather than trying to solve it.

  • The decision to kick the proposals into the long grass could come back to haunt all three party leaders. (Macmillan Dictionary)

The following source suggests that its origin is:

Kick it into the long grass" is golf-derived, essentially describing a form of cheating: a player whose ball lands in the rough so as to be unplayable without adding multiple strokes to the hole can cheat by kicking the ball out-of-bounds into the really long grass and take a one-stroke penalty for a lost ball. (www.idiomcenter.com)

Other sources suggest a different origin

Geldof claims it is an old Irish saying meaning that you've been round and about only not too visible- ~Where have you been? I've been lying in the long grass. Under the radar might be an approximation. Lazing with intent. (boomtownrats.activeboard)

Is there evidence of a more precise origin of the above saying?


1 Answer 1


To understand this British expression, you have to envision a football pitch in a rural area where only the pitch itself and a bit of touch (the field beyond the white lines) is maintained.

http://wherestheteahut.blogspot.de/2011/07/marsden.html Football pitch in Marsden.

If one kicks the ball into the grass — or even better, into the wooded area in the background — not only does play stop, but a new ball would usually be brought in to continue uninterrupted play and the first ball "forgotten".

Another source suggests a derivation from golf, not football or rugby. This would add an element of subterfuge and cheating to the expression.

  • Hm. ;) ... a trick young House of Commons MPs learn while playing golf with their Peers. Jan 29, 2018 at 11:16

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