they're all on the fiddle


Senior Member
I watched an episode of yes, minister, and took down the above. I don't have the context, I don't know to whom it was refered. Is it a normal, english saying/idiom?

Thank you
  • Sabelotodo

    Senior Member
    English, United States
    It means they are all swindlers/crooks/con artists--gaining money by dishonest means. If they are politians, it means they are taking bribes and/or stealing from the public funds.

    I'm sure this is a British idiom. In the U.S. I only hear it on BBC television.


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Sabletodo's right - with a small point of clarification, or maybe it is a question.
    On the fiddle is dishonesty associated with your job or your normal course of business. So, you might be fiddling tax, expenses, allowances, public money at your disposal, social security, ... Typically your target is your employer or the government.
    I'm not at all sure that taking bribes would be on the fiddle? I'm even less sure about ordinary decent criminals. OK they may be on the fiddle as well as being bank-robbers, but the two are quite separate in my mind.

    Edit - I've just seen "on the take". See my uncertainty above about taking bribes.


    Senior Member
    Australia English
    I think the quote from "Yes Minister" could be:
    The Economy Drive:
    Ron Watson: What about drivers and transport service staff.
    Jim: First to go, good Lord we waste a fortune on cars and drivers, and they're all on the fiddle.

    As Panjandrum says, dishonesty associated with your job, and targetting your employer. Drivers claiming to work longer than they do, may be stealing petrol from the government, &c.