A bum steer is when someone intentionally misdirects someone else to prevent them from reaching their destination. For instance, if you are driving and the person next to you has a map, they will give you directions that will not take you to your destination. The phrase originates from cattle drovers who would have to have their cattle follow them through the woods until they reached trails where the cattle near the tarmac could be driven by a single drover.

To give someone a bum steer is to deceive and mislead them. This often happens in the realms of academe and can lead to a total misunderstanding of a concept.

The term “bum steer” is derived from the American West when an illegal guide referred to as a “bum” would provide misleading information about where to find gold. The term has two definitions-to provide false information about how to find something, and to mislead someone into thinking that they are dealing with someone or something that is reliable when in reality they are not.

Give someone a bum steer is a colloquial term for giving them inaccurate information. Give someone a bum steer can also be seen as a form of manipulation because it misleads the receiver into thinking that they are getting accurate information.

In other words, give someone a bum steer means to mislead or deceive another person with false information.

A bum steer is a misleading piece of information, typically designed to provide incorrect information and affect the receiver’s decisions. This can be done deliberately or inadvertently. The term possesses many synonyms such as deliberate misinformation, incorrect info, and erroneous facts.


Burning one’s bridges means to stop any future work or progress, usually with regards to relationships. This can be done by cutting off communication, quitting a job, or damaging the relationship in some other way. We might, for example, burn bridges with someone by telling them that we are leaving the company and won’t be able to help them anymore.

The term “burn one’s bridges” is often used to describe the act of cutting oneself off from all possible routes for success. When someone does this, they are essentially guaranteeing that there will be no way back. The phrase also hints at the idea that it is better to go out with a bang than a whimper.

When someone “burns their bridges” they are cutting themselves off from any future option. The term originates in military parlance, when soldiers would set fire to the bridge across a moat during their retreat or advance for either added security or to cut off access routes for the enemy. This is analogous to how after someone’s upset another person, they should be afraid of reprisal and decide not to try to amend the issue.


The term “burn rubber” is used as a metaphor to describe someone who acts impulsively and quickly, especially after they have tensioned their emotions. When someone goes home and feels like they need to do something immediately, they might feel the need to “burn rubber”. This term originates from the loud screeching noise that can be heard when a car driver presses on their gas pedal to accelerate quickly.

Use of the term “burn rubber” as a metaphor for fast driving is an example of metonymy. In the early days of motoring, tires were made from rubber and they would quickly melt if exposed to too much heat. By extension, to “burn rubber” came to represent going as fast as possible in a vehicle.

Burning rubber is an idiom meaning leaving in a hurry or in a very urgent situation, typically when someone is in trouble. This phrase refers to the sound of tires burning rubber when they are spinning and quickly applying the gas pedal when there is no traction, such as when accelerating from a dead stop. This does not produce any forward momentum but creates a lot of smoke and noise.

4 thoughts on “BUM STEER, GIVE SOMEONE A, BURN (ONE’S) BRIDGES, BURN RUBBER: American English Idioms #29

  1. Hello , hind from Iraq
    – Bum steer: there are two meaning
    1- to provide false information .
    2-to mislead someone.

    -Burn ( one’s) briges:
    To stope any future work or progress.

    -Burn Rubber:
    Someone who acts impulsively and quickly.

  2. Greeting Maestro Sersea
    Really, you gave me a bum steer, when you deliver me the wrong invoice.
    He is a burning rubber due to his tiredness.
    When she left his former job, she burned bridges with other companies, too.

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