to tug the tiger's tail

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ekbatana

Senior Member
German Austria
What does this metaphor mean? I haven't been able to figure its meaning out by myself and did not find many references online, so I guess it is either spoken only, colloquial or seldom used. Thanks for your replies!!

1. Going into that game they had travelled down to Johnny Wilkinson’s Toulon and tugged the tiger’s tail, winning a gripping game 19-15.

2. VIJAY SINGH has tugged the Tiger's tail by insisting he's one man who is definitely not scared to go on a big-game hunt.
The Fijian reckons players who think second place is the best on offer when Tiger Woods is hot are talking rubbish.
 
  • pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    A tiger is a beautiful creature, and if you'd never seen one in action, they can look very lazy and docile when they're at rest. But if you pull on one's tail, you'll find out pretty quick what a tiger can do with those claws and teeth!

    That's the idea of the phrase; essentially, being stupidly brave, and getting the attention of something that might kill you. (It has extra force in the second example, where the tiger in question is the golfer Tiger Woods.)

    It's also phrased "take a tiger by the tail." You will also hear "let sleeping dogs lie," and "woke the sleeping giant," with similar meanings. In the Harry Potter books, the motto of one of the houses in the school was "Never tickle a sleeping dragon." Same idea.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    To act in a way likely to provoke conflict (often considered to be a rash, foolish, or dangerous action.)

    The converse is "to let sleeping dogs lie." i.e. to avoid anything that will disturb the present situation.
     

    tepatria

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    To me, pulling or tugging the tiger's tail means deliberately provoking someone or doing something that you know will have negative results. I don't see how this fits with your first example, though it certainly suits the second one. You did not give any sources for your examples, so perhaps you can add the now.
     

    ekbatana

    Senior Member
    German Austria
    Thank you three for enlightening me, I know the metaphor's meaning now. I originally picked it up on TV a little while ago, that's why I had to resort to these online references.
     
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