To beat around the bush is an idiom that means to delay the completion of an activity or stall while coming to the crux of an argument or discussion. The verb may be conjugated through all its forms. Outside the United States the phrase is sometimes said as beat about the bush. This is falling out of favor as beat around the bush is becoming the global standard, at least in written communication.
The origin of the phrase is quite literal. While hunting, one person would go beat the bush to scare the birds into the air so that someone else could shoot them.
The phrase is very old, from at least the 1400s in the form if beat the bushes. The progression of the phrase is quite logical. Beating around a bush is not as effective as beating the bush. This exact wording is noted in the late 1500s.
New York magazine tried not to offend the North Korean leader by describing it as “ambitious”, but The New York Daily News declined to beat around the bush and said it was “barbarous”. [The Telegraph]
Let’s end the charade, stop beating about the bush, and kill freedom of speech in one swoop rather than watching it abruptly claim so many lives while dying a slow, painful, and certain death. [Dhaka Tribune]
He’s always told me the truth and never beats around the bush, and that’s what every guy in here would ask for. [ESPN]