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Posted: Sun Nov 11, 2018 8:58 pm
by Ken Greenwald
<2018 “While Washington seems increasingly ready to counter Chinese expansionism, including on the high seas, its capacity to wrong-foot its Asian allies makes it all the more important that leading regional powers, such as India and Japan, do more to promote economic and political stability for themselves and the neighborhood.”—CNN Fareed’s Global Briefing, 29 October>
I’ve often heard the expression “get off on the wrong foot,” which defines as: To have a bad start. Said of something that goes or has gone awry at the very beginning. But I am unfamiliar with the transitive verb wrong-foot as used above. <I know we got off on the wrong foot when I was a half hour late to the interview, but I promise that I will always be on time once I start working here.>

wrong-foot transitive verb

1) To cause (as an opponent in tennis or football) to lean into or step with the wrong foot; sport to play a shot in such a way as to cause (one's opponent) to be off balance. <wrong-footed three defenders to score>

2) broadly: To disrupt the equilibrium of; deceive by moving differently from what one expects; to take by surprise so as to place in an embarrassing or disadvantageous situation by saying or doing something unexpected; to disconcert by an unexpected move; to catch unprepared; to confuse or disconcert so as to make less able to act or respond effectively, reasonably, etc.<The sudden deaths of contemporaries wrong-foot us.><An announcement regarded as an attempt to wrong-foot the opposition.>

Etymology: This expression comes from tennis, where it means to hit the ball in the direction the opponent is moving away from. First known use in tennis in 1928. It was transferred to other applications in the late 1900s.

(Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary,,, and The Oxford English Dictionary)

Note: Not listed in The American Heritage Dictionary nor in the [/i][/i]

The following quotes are from The Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources:
<1960 “You could pick up the ball as though to go one side, and then, having picked up the ball, swing to the other side... It will wrong-foot the attackers, thereby giving you more time for your kick.”—High Speed Rugby by E. S. Higham & W. J. Higham, xi. page 136>

<1983 “What happens in Washington, Moscow and Geneva will leave British political leaders moving quickly in order not to be wrong-footed.”—The Listener (British Broadcasting Corporation magazine, London), 6 January, page 5/1>

<1989 “He would be pleased to wrong-foot the Americans if they infringed the treaty that requires them to hand it over to Panamanian control by the end of 1999.”—The Economist (US), 18 November>

<1998 “. . . but in the short run there is elbow room for nimble outfits like Northern Rock to wrong-foot the competition.”—The Birmingham Post(England), 13 February>

<2009 “His interview with Nixon was the first time that a major politician got really badly wrong-footed on television.”—Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland), 18 January>

<2013 “His 20-yard effort deflected off Peter Clarke and wrong-footed Smithies but their blushes were spared when the ball rolled wide of the post.”— Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England), 13 January>

<2016 “With the political and financial environment as fluid as it is, it is likely that market moves will continue to wrong-foot investors in the coming weeks.”—The Irish Times (Dublin, Ireland), 5 July>

<2018 “Conservative leader Andrea Leadsom was wrong-footed and fluffed her response, while The Sun loved it.”—The Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), 5 November>
Note: The vast majority of the hits I saw were from the United Kingdom and so it would seem that the expression is more popular there than in the U.S.

Ken Greenwald – November 11, 2018

Re: wrong-foot

Posted: Sat Nov 17, 2018 8:06 pm
by Phil White
To "wrong-foot" someone is something I have heard all my life over here. It seems to be very common in political reporting in particular.