Michael Quinion wordseditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Wed May 25 15:19:46 UTC 2011

Ron Butters wrote:

> "On the back foot" appears to be a mere slip of the tongue, a blend of
> (?) "on the back burner" and "on the wrong foot" (though that
> interpretation does not seem to lead to the reading that JL gives it).

It's not an error but a British English idiom from cricket. It comes from
a batsman's being forced to put his weight on to his back foot, to take up
a defensive posture, because of the strength or accuracy of the bowler. As
an idiom it mean that a person has been forced into a defensive position.

Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words

The American Dialect Society -

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