"Smart as a whip."
The phrase "smart as a fox" is a well-known metaphor used to describe a person who is clever and skillful. But where does this statement come from and why is the fox considered a symbol of cleverness and skill?
The fox and mythology
The fox is an animal that has played an important role in many cultures for centuries. In Greek mythology, the fox was a symbol of cunning and shrewdness, and in Roman mythology, the fox was associated with Mercury, the god of deception and commerce. In ancient China, the fox was considered a symbol of wisdom and luck, and in Norse mythology, the fox was the companion of Loki, the god of strife and deception.
The phrase "as cunning as a fox" probably comes from the observation that foxes often act in a very clever and sneaky way. Foxes are known for their ability to quickly adapt and get out of difficult situations. They are able to overcome obstacles, avoid traps and catch their prey with tricks.
Therefore, over time, the fox became a symbol of cleverness, skill and cunning. In many fables and fairy tales, the fox appears as a clever character that tricks other animals and gets out of difficult situations. One of the most famous figures in this context is the fox Reinicke Fuchs, who appears in medieval poetry and later folk literature as a cunning and crafty hero.
The fox and the hedgehog
Another well-known anecdote tells of a fox that is always out to catch hedgehogs, but fails each time because the hedgehogs curl up into a tight ball, making them unreachable for the fox.
One day, however, the fox devises a cunning (😏) ruse: He lures the hedgehogs to the river and convinces them to go swimming with him. While swimming, the fox keeps rolling the hedgehogs into the water so that they can no longer curl up and are thus defenseless. The fox takes advantage of this and eats the hedgehogs.
This anecdote clearly shows how cunning and sneaky foxes can be and how they use their intelligence and ability to adapt to new situations to catch their prey.
Of foxes, foxes, renards and zorros...
Many cultures and languages have similar idioms that refer to the fox. In English, the fox is referred to as "cunning as a fox," in French as "rusé comme un renard," and in Spanish as "astuto como un zorro." The variety and prevalence of these idioms shows how deeply humanity's imagination has been shaped by nature and animals.
In summary, the phrase "Cunning as a fox" can be traced back to the mythological and cultural connotations of the fox as a symbol of cleverness and skill. The fox's ability to adapt quickly and overcome obstacles has made it a metaphor for cunning and shrewdness, which is still popularly used today to describe a person who is particularly clever and skillful.
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