backpedal » backpeddle

Classification: English

Spotted in the wild:

  • As the 19th century began, the churches realized this and the evangelicals, by now older ministers with families, began to backpeddle, relegating women to lesser roles, segregating African-American worshipers, tolerating slavery and becoming less harsh with the male members. (University of Delaware UpDate, Apr. 16, 1998)
  • Editor’s note: The author would like a chance to cover his behind. To anyone reading this piece who is currently or has been a professor of mine, or to anyone reading this who might have a say in the way my shaky future turns out, please do not regard this article as an admission of inattention or lack of interest in any course or professor. Sufficiently backpeddled, we continue. (University of Michigan Daily, Feb. 17, 1999)
  • After receiving the wrath of the media and the ire of parent groups, Siebert started backpeddling on his holy crusade to save society. (Texas State University Star, Apr. 1, 1999)
  • But the tides of globalization can shift quickly, occasionally causing economists and social scientists to backpeddle and eat crow. (Carleton College Voice, Summer 2004)

One possible semantic justification for this eggcorn is noted by John T. Reed in comments about spelling errors by football coaches:

Some spelling errors just make us laugh. But others can cause confusion. For example, peddle means to sell, so a relatively new coach may figure “backpeddle” means to fake going backward when you really are not, selling the offense on the fake. Spelled correctly as backpedal, the reader recognizes the word pedal refers to the motion of the legs when backpedaling and how it resembles pedaling a bike.

See also soft-peddle.

| link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2005/03/02 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by bryce martin , 2005/03/04 at 8:59 pm

    Regarding baseball, I’ve heard the great unwashed say “ending” for “inning.”

    Football: “field gold” for “field goal.”

    And I hear “Wal-Mark” for “Wal-Mart.”

  2. 2

    Commentary by Ev Lee , 2005/03/07 at 2:49 pm

    I don’t think that it is only here in Oklahoma, beacause my brother alos hears it it Guam. People say they need to go to Wal-marts…with an s at the end of it.

    Also, here in Oklahoma, they pronounce “suite” Soot. It drives me nuts when furniture dealers have bedroom soots for sale.

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