walk back

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walk back

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Jul 12, 2013 10:58 pm

aaa
<2013 “The detentions have been criticized by rights groups and the Obama administration, which spent Thursday walking back remarks made early in the day by a State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, seeming to criticize Mr. Morsi as undemocratic and in so doing seeming to validate the military’s move to oust him.”—New York Times, 12 July>
WALK BACK transitive verb: To withdraw or back-pedal on a statement or promise; retract. (Wikipedia)
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This is a fairly new expression which has yet to make it into most word and phrase dictionaries. In fact, the only source in which I found it defined was Wiktionary. The earliest quote I found was from 1990 (see below) and the fact that it appeared in quotes is an indication that it was a relatively new phrase at that time. So, I’d guess that it first appeared sometime in the late 1980s. Today, however, it is more widely used, mainly in American politics. It was a bit of a chore to separate out the phrase with the above meaning from all the background noise, which I’m sure will be duly appreciated. (<:)

Note: The phrase ‘walk back the cat’ kept popping up in my searches (37,000 Google hits at my space-time coordinate) and one of its meanings is related to our phrase, but I will leave that discussion for another time.

The following quotes are from archived sources:
<1990 “So chastened were the secretary of state's negotiators in Moscow that they refuse to rule out a Soviet ‘walk-back’ during the summit or before it begins, from positions seemingly agreed to last week.”—Chicago Sun-Times (Illinois), 23 May>

<1999 “So in very simple terms, once again, if you know how and are able to actually create a cancerous cell, in theory, you can walk back the process in order to learn more about it?”—PBS News Hour, 28 July>

<2005 “To try to use the occasion of the Iraq war to walk back the policy on women in combat seems to be ill-timed.”— Boston Globe (Massachusetts), 18 May>

<2009 “. . . he needed to come out again and walk back the word ‘stupidly,’ which he did.”— Fox News Sunday, 26 July>

<2011 “After the onslaught of Democratic remarks hailing Boehner's willingness to work with them, Republicans were forced to awkwardly walk back the speaker's remarks.”—National Journal, 27April>

<2013 “Even now, the free-market fanatics at the Club for Growth are trying to force Walden to walk back his attack on Obama’s budget.”—The Daily Beast, 13 April>
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Ken G – July 12, 2013
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Re: walk back

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Jul 14, 2013 12:00 am

Thanks, Ken. I too have recently noticed this phrase being used, but hadn't paid much heed to it until I read your post.

My only other comment is that the 1999 PBS quote seems to be using the expression not in the sense of 'retract' or 'back-pedal', but 'reverse engineer' or, perhaps, 'pull apart'.
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Re: walk back

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Jul 14, 2013 12:28 am

aaa
Erik, You're right on that 1999 quote. I like reverse engineer.
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Ken – July 13, 2013
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Re: walk back

Post by Bobinwales » Mon Jul 15, 2013 11:30 pm

I don't think that the phrase has swum The Pond yet because I have never heard, or seen it used.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: walk back

Post by Wizard of Oz » Wed Jul 17, 2013 12:42 pm

.. ah Bob 'tis a marvellous thing that Pond .. saves you from all kinds of unusual aberrations in the real english ..

WoZ who has a whole bloody ocean
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Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

End of topic.
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