A Little Fox Never Hurt Anyone

By Kate Evans

We all know that good looking women are described as “foxy”.

But foxes, with their rusty color and reputation for craftiness, can be used in many other colorful, unique, and descriptive expressions.

For example, “A fox’s sleep” is when one feigns indifference while keeping a close eye on someone.

“A wise fox will never rob his neighbor’s hen-roost”, meaning a thief should steal from people far from home so as not to get caught.

There’s my personal favorite, “I gave him a flap with a fox-tail,” which means that I made a fool of someone.

“To set a fox to keep the geese” would be someone who trusts those who should clearly not be trusted with important tasks.

If it’s a case of “the fox and the grapes”, then someone really wants something, can’t obtain it, so they pretend they never wanted it in the first place.

And of course, there’s the often relevant “when a fox preaches, take care of your geese.”
So, go off and flap someone with a fox-tail… or just try and work one of these expressions into your next short story!

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11 Responses to “A Little Fox Never Hurt Anyone”

  • Cecily

    Some interesting sayings, none of which I’m familiar with, so thank you. (I’m in England, and from your spelling of “neighbor”, I presume you’re in the US, which probably accounts for it.)

    We do have “to set the cat among the pigeons”, but it means something quite different from your equivalent fox saying, i.e. it means to cause chaos, disruption or general trouble.

  • ApK

    “when a fox preaches, take care of your geese.”

    So…what’s that mean?

  • Suzanne

    Just wanted to mention that I find the daily writing tips useful. One thing is bothering me about this one, though. That is the placement of the quotation marks and the commas and periods. Commas, periods, exclamation points and question marks always go inside the quotation marks; colons and semicolons go outside the quotation marks.

  • Ed Buckner

    I have heard, when referring to a person who appears crazy, that he was “crazy like a fox” meaning that although it seemed his actions were random, he actually had a crafty plan in mind that was hidden by his actions.

    I have also heard “crafty like a fox” but that wouldn’t illustrate the person’s apparent lack of planning that masks his actual genius.

  • Dhanashree

    It was nice article. Thank you. Will you write something more of the kind? Means expressions including animals?

  • Mark Nichol

    The fox dismisses the grapes he can’t reach by saying, “They were probably sour anyway.” Hence, “sour grapes.”

    And though it’s a stand-alone term, not part of a traditional phrase, “outfoxed” is an evocative synonym for “outwitted.”

  • Jimmie G.

    Dear Ms. Evans,
    To paraphrase a recent tip, I feel like I am picking up another dog’s poop. Perhaps you can explain to me your inconsistent usage in American English where the period and comma should go inside of the quotation marks.
    You wrote:
    “A wise fox will never rob his neighbor’s hen-roost”, (inconsistent)
    “I gave him a flap with a fox-tail,” (consistent)
    “the fox and the grapes”, (inconsistent)
    “when a fox preaches, take care of your geese.” (consistent)
    I am on stand-by with my pooper-scooper.
    Jimmie G.

  • Maeve

    @Jimmie G
    Do you really think that Guest Author’s unfortunate metaphor deserves to be perpetuated? It’s just punctuation.

  • Ranu

    Can someone give an example to use “the fox and the grapes” in a sentence? I really still learning English..

  • Brad Mathews

    No. These and similar expressions should not be used in prose even if their meanings are clear. Using said expressions is what I call a case of ‘Spontaneous Me’. Whether or not used properly, it writing that draws attention to itself. Unless you are actually talking about foxes, of course.

  • Treathyl FOX

    I added a link to this site on my Link Exchanges page. (No reciprocal linking required.) I picked this entry to let you know because my last name is Fox. The advice this blog provides is extremely useful. Also enlightening and entertaining. Keep it going!

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