BACK TO THE WALL, HAVE (ONE’S), BACKHANDED COMPLIMENT, AND BACK-SEAT DRIVER: American English Idioms #8

Welcome to American English Idioms: Lesson 8. In this lesson you have 3 American English idioms to read, listen to, translate, and pronounce in English. Please focus and do your best so that you can learn and improve your knowledge of American English idioms. Don’t forget to use the comments section below to share your thoughts and what you’ve learned today.

Directions 1: Watch the video 2 or more times, and pay close attention to the audio and text.

Directions 2: Read the following text in English, then translate it using the translator on this page into your language if needed. When you finish, feel free to write a comment in the comments section below and let us know how you feel about what you’ve learned, as well as what you’ve learned.

BACK TO THE WALL, HAVE (ONE’S) – to be in a difficult or desperate situation

1. Gary lost his job over a month ago and he has spent all his savings paying his bills. Now he doesn’t have any more money, and his back is to the wall.

2. My back was to the wall. It seemed like my only choices were to try to save the company with my personal savings or pull out and let the company go while I still had some money left.

Compare to: in a bind; in a fix; in a jam; behind the eight ball

BACKHANDED COMPLIMENT – a criticism that is phrased in such a way that it appears to be a compliment

1. Patricia said she can’t wear fake gold jewelry the way I can because it turns her skin green, and I think she was giving me a backhanded compliment. She was really letting everyone know that she wears real gold jewelry while the jewelry I have on is fake.

2. Paul is not a very nice person. He is always giving people backhanded compliments that sound like he is being nice when he is really just insulting them.

Compare to: damn with faint praise The term backhanded combines the meaning of back meaning insincere or malicious and hand meaning to give.

BACK-SEAT DRIVER – a person who gives driving orders when he/she is not the driver

1. Why must you tell me every time you see a red light ahead? I’m the one who is driving. Stop being a backseat driver.

2. Andy’s mother always made him nervous when he drove her to the store. She would tell him where to turn, how fast to drive, and where to park. She was a back-seat driver.

When cars were first developed in the 1920s, wealthy car owners would often ride in the back seats, telling their drivers where to go, where to turn, etc. Now such a practice by anyone is seen as intrusive and rude.

2 thoughts on “BACK TO THE WALL, HAVE (ONE’S), BACKHANDED COMPLIMENT, AND BACK-SEAT DRIVER: American English Idioms #8”

  1. Hello , hind from Iraq,
    – Iraqi political conflict is never end so personal Iraqi back to the wall.
    -please let me lead my life stop being backseat driver.

  2. Hello , hind from Iraq,
    – Iraqi political conflict is never end so personal Iraqi back to the wall.
    -please let me lead my life stop being backseat driver.
    -she is bad girl, she is backhanded compliment that she say thing and do difference thing.

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