Amy West medievalist at W-STS.COM
Fri May 27 12:22:24 UTC 2011

On 5/27/11 12:01 AM, Automatic digest processor wrote:
> Date:    Thu, 26 May 2011 12:10:39 -0400
> From:    Ronald Butters<ronbutters at AOL.COM>
> Subject: Re: narrative
> I am delighted to have this explanation, though I don't think it actually disagrees with what I said, which was that the phrase in question "appears" to be a slip of the tongue. The fact that there is a specialized use of the exact phrase suggests strongly that the speaker was referring to fencing or (more likely) using current British slang. It still COULD be a slip of the tongue, but (as I noted) that possibility is considerably diminished on semantic grounds.

My left-field explanation the term "on [the] back foot" simply reduced
the probability of your slip of the tongue explanation and gloss being
the right one. Michael's posting showing that it's a fixed phrase of a
more logical origin than I suggested narrows that probability to 0.

> It doesn't appear that you are disagreeing at all with what was my central point about the word "narrative," which JL seemed to consider in the usage that he quoted to be a case of semantic shift, although (it seems to me) it is just a minor metaphorical usage (which, I grant, is the way that many semantic shifts do begin).

Nope, on that part I concurred, so I held my tongue on that one,
figuring I too often waste electrons saying "I agree."

---Amy West

The American Dialect Society -

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