Student or Learner
"She said she would not f....you with a ten foot poll." Does it mean she thought of him as an ugly person?
***** NOT A TEACHER *****
(1) The Senior Member has given you and me an excellent link.
(2) I cannot prove it, but I do not think that many Americans
use this expression very much anymore.
(3) When I was younger, quite a few people would use it when
they were afraid to give their opinion about a controversial
matter. Why were they afraid? Well, no one wants other people to
be angry with them. And sometimes if the boss doesn't like your
opinion, she might fire you. So "I wouldn't touch that with a ten-foot
pole" = I absolutely will not discuss that matter.
(4) How did this expression start? I do not know. Maybe it was something
like this. You see a dangerous snake. A friend gives you a ten-foot pole
and tells you to hit the snake. You say, "No way! Even a ten-foot
pole is not long enough to protect me from a dangerous snake."
So some subjects in the United States (for example: race, religion,
sexual orientation, etc.) are like dangerous snakes. One doesn't
want to discuss those subjects because one's opinion might make other
people angry. For example, in some countries, this is a dangerous
question: Do you think the last election was honest? Many people in
many countries would say: I would not touch that subject with a ten-foot
pole (because if I do, the consequences will probably be something like
a dangerous snake biting me).
(5) As I said, most Americans probably do not use that expression anymore.
If someone asks a sensitive question, one might simply smile and say
something like, "Oh, I don't know anything about that matter." On the
other hand, if you know that everyone in your office, for example, likes
President X, then if they ask you, "Do you like President X?" you might
answer "Of course!!!" (even if you don't). In the United States, there is
another saying: To get along, you have go along. (That is, do or say
what everyone else does or says -- if you want others to like you.)
(6) When people say, "I wouldn't touch that subject with a ten-foot pole,"
they are really saying: I am afraid to tell you what I really think, so I shall
simply keep quiet.
P.S. Maybe I am wrong, but I read somewhere that the British
expression is: I wouldn't touch that with a barge pole. (Of course,
I do not think that there are many canal barges in the United Kingdom of
It simply means "I don't want to have anything to do with it" or "I don't want to go anywhere near it", whatever it might be.
ex. Your friend wants you to go out with this girl. You think she's ugly and obnoxious. You say: "I wouldn't touch her with a ten-foot pole!"
I've always loved these lyrics:
Lyrics to The Grinch's Theme Song :
You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch
You really are a heel,
You're as cuddly as a cactus, you're as charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch,
You're a bad banana with a greasy black peel!
You're a monster, Mr. Grinch,
Your heart's an empty hole,
Your brain is full of spiders, you have garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch,
I wouldn't touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!
You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch,
You have termites in your smile,
You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch,
Given a choice between the two of you I'd take the seasick crocodile!
Not a 10-foot pole, nor a 20-foot pole, but 39-1/2-foot pole!
I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.