"fencing in the moon"

langelaszlo

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Dear friends,
I have run into the phrase "fencing in the moon" in a mid-20th century PR textbook.
Source: Cutlip/Center: Effective Public Relations (1952), page 4.
The full context:
"His work [public relations staff] has been variously described as "human engineering," "social engineering," or "the engineering of consent." Use of such terms is akin to fencing in the moon."
I have cleared up all the words, but it may be an idiom or saying. I would appreciate if you could help me.
Thank you.
Laszlo from Hungary
 

probus

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"Fencing in the moon" is not an idiom. It is an original phrase. The author was attempting to discredit or belittle concepts like social engineering, and engineering of consent. But the world has moved on. Nowadays social engineering and the manufacture of consent are considered real, and are studied by sociologists. That is why "fencing in the moon" has never been seen or heard again since 1952.
 
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Lynxear

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This was the author's way of making a comment on those social areas. They were in their infancy back in 1952 so saying that:

"Use of such terms is akin to fencing in the moon."

This could be phrased:

"Use of such terms is ridiculous."

"Fencing in the moon" is an absurd idea and that was what the author thought of those social titles. He said it that way as a less direct, more colourfully sarcastic way of expressing his opinion.

"Fencing in the moon" is not an idiom since there is no hidden meaning.

 

langelaszlo

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Thank you very much for your help, it is clear now.
 

sammol

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Wow, this is why I love the idioms threads...

I'm a native English speaker, but for some reason, I read this phrase as meaning 'swordfight' fencing rather than ' to fence something in'... :lol:

You learn something new everyday!
 

davidhibner

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I think it means "be ridiculous" or something unnecessary to do because it'll make no sense.
 

emsr2d2

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I take it to be something impossible and, therefore, not even worth attempting, like "herding kittens" (another idiom).
 

Hülya Uslu

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"Fencing in the moon" is not an idiom. It is an original phrase. The author was attempting to discredit or belittle concepts like social engineering, and engineering of consent. But the world has moved on. Nowadays social engineering and the manufacture of consent are considered real, and are studied by sociologists. That is why "fencing in the moon" has never been seen or heard again since 1952.


Your explanation is illuminating. I have learnt something new.
 
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