Backpedaling originally refers to pressing the pedal backwards on the bicycle, especially on bikes with coaster brakes, which are triggered by the pedal.
The phrase is also often used as an analogy, when someone retracts from their previous statement, trying to change the position they took.
“Backpedaling” is also a boxing slang expression, to retreating from the opponent, by rapidly stepping backwards.
The phrase was first coined in relation to the rapidly spreading bicycle phenomenon in 1887.
The end of the century saw a great rise in popularity for bicycles and “backpedaling” became a common word in the lives of the common man.
Later on, in the early years of the 20th century, the phrase got adopted by the boxing lingo for retreating from and opponent.
This meaning had transformed into a more figurative sense later on.
Spread and Usage
It is undisclosed, when exactly did the expression get its analogous meaning, though this transformation took place in during the 1900’s.
“Backpedaling” became a widely popular term for when someone retracts from the position, they previously took; be it in politics, or a personal conversation.
The term was defined on Urban Dictionary in 2011, with a couple of other entries written since that time.
- Urban Dictionary – Backpedaling