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Not touch with a ten-foot pole

verb phrase

To be loath to have anything to do with; be suspicious or apprehensive; reject: If I were you I wouldn’t touch that proposition with a ten-foot pole

[1909+; semantically akin to the proverb advising us to use a long spoon when we eat with the devil; an earlier and once more common version spoke of a forty-foot pole]


Stay far away from, avoid completely, as in Ronald wouldn’t touch raw oysters with a ten-foot pole. This expression dates from the mid-1700s, when it began to replace the earlier not to be handled with a pair of tongs. In the 1800s barge-pole was sometimes substituted for ten-foot pole, but that variant has died out.


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