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Barking up the wrong tree

刊登日期: 2017.05.06
作者: Grace Tse  

When we see the word “barking”, we will readily associate it with dogs. Why do dogs bark? Dogs make different barking sounds when they are excited, frightened, or to give a warning. Then when is a dog “barking up the wrong tree”? 

This expression was initially used in popular game hunting many years ago. With their good sense of smell, dogs were sent to chase after the fleeing animals, such as rabbits and foxes, in the wood. During the chase, dogs lost track of the prey and thought that it might have hidden inside the tree. However, the prey had actually escaped. Since dogs are not good at climbing, what they did was barking up the wrong tree. 

The expression started to be used figuratively in the 1830s in the USA. James Hall, an American judge and writer, was one of the first who used this idiom in his book entitled “Legends of the West”. 

“You are barking up the wrong tree, Johnson.” 

If we say that someone is barking up the wrong tree, we mean that he or she is making a wrong assumption about a person or a situation. 

The policemen thought that Jack was the bank robber. However, they were actually barking up the wrong tree(弄錯目標;估計錯誤)because Jack had been hospitalised. 

Poor countries are always barking up the wrong tree(緣木求魚)when they try to seek financial assistance from rich countries. 

When we make a big decision in reality, we must avoid barking up the wrong tree. Otherwise, we might take the wrong course of action


Glossary

Associate 聯想
Game hunting 打獵
Prey 獵物
Judge 法官
Assumption 假設
Financial assistance 財政援助
Reality 現實
Course of action 行動方針

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