A Fable from Aesop

It’s this kind of “ass.” As in, a donkey.

The Ass in the Lion’s Skin

AN ASS, having put on the Lion’s skin, roamed about in the forest and amused himself by frightening all the foolish animals he met in his wanderings. At last coming upon a Fox, he tried to frighten him also, but the Fox no sooner heard the sound of his voice than he exclaimed, “I might possibly have been frightened myself, if I had not heard your bray.”

Clothes may disguise a fool, but his words will give him away

Learning From This Fable

How might we describe the ass, and separately, the fox, using English idiomatic phrases?

Because the ass in the lion’s skin frightened all the animals except for the fox, we might say that appearances can be deceiving.

The ass was bluffing his way around the forest. The fox called his bluff.

The ass bluffed the other animals into believing he was the lion.

The ass paid lip service to being a lion.

The ass was engaged in a shell game.

Though the ass was an ass, it was engaged in monkey business.

The ass’ lion skin ruse was made out of whole cloth, figuratively speaking.

The ass was going through the motions of being a lion.

The ass was lying through its teeth. (Normally “his” teeth however)

Though not a snake, the ass was speaking with a forked tongue.

The fox kept his eye on the ball, not losing sight of an important detail.

The fox was sly as a fox. That is, cunning as a fox.

The fox was not foxed by the ass.

The fox was wise to the ass’ trick.

The fox got it while the other animals did not.


What do you think of the moral of the fable? Do words really “give people away” like this?

How many of these idioms do you recognize? You should be able to look them up on the Internet with Google easily enough.

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