IDIOMS: TO RIDE A TIGER

to ride a tigerThe tiger is an attractive but dangerous beast, and some borrowed idioms in English build on the animal’s reputation. To ‘catch’ or ‘have (got) a tiger by the tail’ or ‘to ride a tiger’ have similar meanings. They are derived from the Chinese proverb “He who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount”, which was translated into English in the 1870s. They are a warning to be aware of what you are getting yourself into as, should it become problematic, you could find yourself in an even riskier situation where letting go of or jumping off the tiger is more dangerous than holding on. For instance, it might refer to a risky investment that, if you bail out, could have even more disastrous consequences. Or pursuing a business deal with an unscrupulous person who, if you upset him or her, might destroy you! The smart thing to do, advises the proverb, is to know the tiger when you see it, and stay away.

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