[Ads-l] have/put someone on their heels

Barretts Mail mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jun 8 00:45:56 EDT 2017

In "'I literally wanted to rinse myself off,' ex-FBI agent says of Comey statement” by Jason Kurtz on CNN, James Gagliano uses the expressions “have/put X on their heels”:

"For 48 years ... FBI Director (J. Edgar) Hoover pulled puppet strings, and had presidents on their heels," he said. "We now have a President that was attempting to put an FBI director on his heels.”

Although I grasped the gist, I’m not the only one who had trouble understanding the exact meaning. samthebrand (https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/285363/whats-the-meaning-of-put-someone-on-ones-heels <https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/285363/whats-the-meaning-of-put-someone-on-ones-heels>) also wondered when hearing the put variation on “House of Cards."

As per John Mack, the online Oxford Dictionaries (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/set_(or_rock)_someone_back_on_their_heels) <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/set_(or_rock)_someone_back_on_their_heels)> has “set/rock someone back on their heels” and Dictionary.com <http://dictionary.com/> (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/set-back-on-one-s-heels <http://www.dictionary.com/browse/set-back-on-one-s-heels>) has “set back on one’s heels”. 

It seems that “on their heels” can take other verbs and does not necessarily need to be preceded by “back”.

Benjamin Barrett
Formerly of Seattle, WA

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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