Part of speech:
(Like "sleep," "skydive," and "succeed," all intransitive verbs show complete action on their own and do not do action to an object. You sleep, you skydive, you succeed, and that's it. You don't "sleep a bed," "skydive a plane," or "succeed a plan".
Likewise, you backpedal.)
To backpedal is to quickly step backwards. Think of pedaling backwards on a bike. You can literally backpedal on your bike or while you're walking, but the more useful meaning of this word is figurative. When you suddenly realize you're doing something wrong and you quickly back up to fix it or take back what you said or did, you're backpedaling.
How to use it:
Talk about someone doing something wrong or hurting someone's feelings, then backpedaling to fix the problem or apologize. Backpedaling can be insincere: that is, you can accuse someone of backpedaling if you think that person is only apologizing or changing his or her mind to tell people what they want to hear. You can also backpedal FROM or ON something, as in "She backpedaled from her promise," or "She backpedaled on her promise," meaning that she's not going to fulfill her promise anymore.
The author publicly backpedaled, apologizing for his racist comments and assuring everyone he totally loves black people and has two black friends himself.
The politician was criticized for backpedaling on his promise to vote in favor of equal pay for women.
Look away from the screen to explain the definition in your own words. You'll know you understand what "backpedal" means when you can explain it without saying "undo" or "take back."
Think of the last time you had to say "Wait, wait, wait, that's not what I meant," and fill in the blank: "I was trying to ____, but I had to backpedal by _____."
Example: "I was trying to compliment her pretty face, but I had to backpedal by complimenting her outfit, too, so she wouldn't think I was hinting that she was fat."
Spend at least 20 seconds occupying your mind with the game and quote below. Then try the review questions. Don't go straight to the review now;let your working memory empty out first.
Playing With Words:
This month's game is "guess the common word based on the given literal root meanings." Try it out each day and see the right answer the next day. It can be fun and illuminating to see the literal meanings of words when they came into the language! More than one right answer might be possible in some cases, just so you know. Also, it's okay if you can't come up with most or even any of the answers on your own; just check out the solutions and you'll learn the roots as you go along this month.
"forward" + "throw" = ?
Try this one today:
"from/away" + "hold" + "state/condition" = ?
A Point Well Made:
Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr: "Every man possesses three characters: that which he exhibits, that which he really has, and that which he believes he has."
1. The opposite of BACKPEDAL is
A. PLOW ON
B. FORGET ABOUT
C. THROW AWAY
2. Everyone grew frustrated with the lawyer who kept backpedaling, _____.
A. fiddling with his notes and causing endless awkward pauses
B. rephrasing his questions to avoid causing offense
C. interrupting the witnesses as they were trying to speak
Answers are below.
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Disclaimer: Word meanings presented here are expressed in plain language and are limited to common, useful applications only. Readers interested in authoritative and multiple definitions of words are encouraged to check a dictionary. Likewise, word meanings, usage, and pronunciations are limited to American English; these elements may vary across world Englishes.
Answers to review questions:
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