briar patch

A briar patch is simply a piece of land overgrown with a tangled mass of thorned plants. The term was once a widely used figure of speech, a vivid way to suggest a difficult place or problem, a prickly situation in life. Joel Chandler Harris used both the literal and metaphoric meanings in Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings (1881), a collection of southern stories incorporating Native American and African trickster tales. In “How Mr. Rabbit Was Too Sharp for Mr. Fox,” Rabbit tricks Fox into flinging him into the briars. When Rabbit has safely escaped to the far side of the patch, he sits “cross-legged on a chinkapin log koamin’ de pitch outen his har wid a chip” and brags that he was “bred en bawn in a brier-patch.”

Charles Frazier