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  1. Newbie
    Interested in Language
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      • China
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      • Singapore

    • Join Date: Feb 2011
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    #1

    Have a tiger by the tail

    Hi, teachers. I came across an idiom "have a tiger by the tail" in the course of reading. I do not understand the exact meaning of it.

    The story I have read is like this. A boy told a fib about a lake monster which aroused the interests of many sightseers. Several people played along the joke by really making a monster floating on the lake. This actually boosted the businesses in that little town. However, the group of people who had made the monster felt exhausted when setting up the scene on the lake every weekend. But they dared not give it up due to the boomed business. So they said that they had a tiger by the tail.

    Does the idiom mean "start on something big but can not finish it"?

    From learner Joanne.

  2. bhaisahab's Avatar
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      • British English
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      • England
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      • Ireland

    • Join Date: Apr 2008
    • Posts: 25,630
    #2

    Re: Have a tiger by the tail

    Quote Originally Posted by JoanneWang View Post
    Hi, teachers. I came across an idiom "have a tiger by the tail" in the course of reading. I do not understand the exact meaning of it.

    The story I have read is like this. A boy told a fib about a lake monster which aroused the interests of many sightseers. Several people played along the joke by really making a monster floating on the lake. This actually boosted the businesses in that little town. However, the group of people who had made the monster felt exhausted when setting up the scene on the lake every weekend. But they dared not give it up due to the boomed business. So they said that they had a tiger by the tail.

    Does the idiom mean "start on something big but can not finish it"?

    From learner Joanne.
    In that context it means to take on something too big to manage.

  3. BobK's Avatar
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      • English
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    • Join Date: Jul 2006
    • Posts: 16,038
    #3

    Re: Have a tiger by the tail

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    In that context it means to take on something too big to manage.
    , but it's an ill-chosen idiom. 'Having a tiger by the tail' normally applies to a dangerous situation which one has to keep participating in because stopping would be even more dangerous.

    b

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