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chasing his tail

chasing his tail

Date: Apr 11 2001


1. Quote - Listen to the quote and guess what the slang means.

“He didn’t come any closer than the rest of us. He thought he did, but really he was just chasing his tail.”
-Mel Gibson, movie actor talking about knowing what women want in the movie “What Women Want”.


1. Definition - Study the definition.

working hard to do something, but actually doing nothing

2. Use - Learn how the slang is used.

Use this phrase to describe any situation in which someone is doing something pointless. Just like a cat chasing his tail, a person can be trying to accomplish something, only to realize that the result is meaningless. For example, if your mom is looking for her scissors in the kitchen, but you know they’re in dining room, you should tell her she’s chasing her tail, and that she should stop looking in the kitchen.


1. Examples - Hear some example sentences.

””I’m tired of chasing my tail at this job. I’m going to quit. I want to do something meaningful.”“

””Mike thought he was going to get a good grade because he was nice to the teacher. Actually, he was just chasing his tail. The teacher still gave him a ‘D’ because his test scores were very low.”“

””I’ve been chasing my tail for days. I’m trying, but I just can’t figure out why the TV doesn’t work. We’re going to have to return it to the store or call a repair man.”“


1. Winners - See who guessed the slang definition correctly.

I think it means that someone just goes makes a great effort in doing something but at the end it was useless because he/she didn’t go further.
by Sónia (Evora, Portugal)
Chasing his tail – means to go in circles but not go anywhere; nothing is accomplished by going in circles; no goal is achieved, just endless (mindless) activity.
by Darrell
I guess “chasing his tail” means working with no progress at all, he may think that he’s working towards the goal or the solution, but actually he’s just standing at the same point.
by Amy (Hong Kong, China)
This means he was not getting anywhere; a misconception.by Victor
“To chase your tail” means “to run around in circles”, “to go in circles” or “to get nowhere”.
by Ryan (Toronto, Canada)

Want to guess next week's slang?

Go to the TOEFL® page >


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