not touch something with a ten foot pole

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This expression may have been derived by the 10-foot poles that electricians and other utility workers use to de-energize transformers and other high voltage utility equipment before performing maintenance.


not touch (something) with a ten foot pole

  1. (idiomatic) To avoid something at all costs; to refuse to associate with something; signifies a strong aversion.
    • Ambrose Bierce (under the pseudonym Dod Grile), The Fiend's Delight In conclusion, his respect for letter-writing ladies is so great that he would not touch one of them with a ten-foot pole.
    • 1999. David Morefield, The Guardian: I spy, the new 007:
      Serious actors of the world wouldn't touch the part with a ten-foot pole.
  2. (idiomatic) To be unable (perhaps figuratively) to approach something or someone.
    • Francis Lynde, The Quickening:
      On the contrary, my dear Mr. Gordon, it is because I do know him, or know of him, that I am turning him over to you. You are the one person in the world to obtain that coal lease. I confess I couldn't touch the Major with a ten-foot pole, any more than you could go North and get the cash. But you are his neighbor, and he likes you. What you recommend, he'll do.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce, Vol. 8:
      ... the stock's gone up from nothin' out o' sight. You couldn't tech that stock with a ten-foot pole!

Usage notesEdit

This expression is nearly always used in the negative.


See alsoEdit