the gladiator on his back foot

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  • Trisia

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Hello, welcome to the forums! :D

    Please try to give us more context - where did you read/hear this?

    What do you suppose it could mean?
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Would you please explain me what does it mean:"The gladiator on his back foot!"
    Hi,
    We could use a hint, but I enjoy guessing into a mystery.

    a) It doesn't mean anything and is a transcription error.
    b) The gladiator instead of pushing forward is being forced back, his weight has shifted to his back foot. Perhaps he is being forced to retreat. We have an expression where we say X is on his heels, meaning that he is being forced to retreat or has been confronted with a difficult or unexpected situation.
    c) Yes, I don't know. :D
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    As a portrait photographer I get called on this phrase "back foot" frequently.

    Obviously people have left and right feet. Very few have front and rear feet.

    I give posing directions telling people to move their "front foot" to the left or the right, etc. "Front foot" is the foot nearer to me (the photographer).

    A gladiator might take a stance like a fencer and have a "front" and "back" foot. If he were "on his back foot", i.e., his weight was on his rear leg, then he would not be in a position to make a lethal lunge.

    (If any of the dear readers out there are quadrupeds, I apologize if I have insulted you.)
     

    lili1351

    New Member
    italy
    Thank you all my friends.
    I found this phrase in a text about metaphor therapy.
    "when I'm angry it is like a gladiator on the back footwith a trident.
     

    nichec

    Senior Member
    Chinese(Taiwan)/English(AE)
    Thank you all my friends.
    I found this phrase in a text about metaphor therapy.
    "when I'm angry it is like a gladiator on the back footwith a trident.
    :D
    Hehehehehe......So the "back foot" goes with "with a trident", not "a gladiator"

    A trident has three feet, not a gladiator:D

    Welcome to the forum, I love your thread, a lot:D:thumbsup:
     

    sarcie

    Senior Member
    English - Ireland
    A gladiator might take a stance like a fencer and have a "front" and "back" foot. If he were "on his back foot", i.e., his weight was on his rear leg, then he would not be in a position to make a lethal lunge.
    I think this is the most likely explanation - it means the speaker is at a disadvantage, leaning with their weight behind them instead of in preparation to fight back.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    :D
    Hehehehehe......So the "back foot" goes with "with a trident", not "a gladiator"

    A trident has three feet, not a gladiator:D

    Welcome to the forum, I love your thread, a lot:D:thumbsup:
    A trident is a weapon which was sometimes used by gladiators, it's also found amongst traditional Chinese weaponry. The trident is like a giant fork, with three prongs (not feet, you are thinking of a tripod).
    AWordLover's explanation is the most likely - the gladiator would take a fighting stance with one foot in front of the other (for a variety of reasons - stability, reducing the strikable area facing the opponent, ease of movement). If he was on the back foot, it seems likely he was retreating or taking a defensive posture.
    Having said all that, I really don't understand the metaphor that has been quoted - the idea that someone being angry would be retreating doesn't seem likely, but perhaps it means that a gladiator who has been forced to retreat but is holding a trident (an extremely effective and versatile heavy weapon) is very dangerous.
    Isn't this a simile rather than a metaphor? We are saying it's "like" something else, i.e. similar to.
     

    nichec

    Senior Member
    Chinese(Taiwan)/English(AE)
    A trident is a weapon which was sometimes used by gladiators, it's also found amongst traditional Chinese weaponry. The trident is like a giant fork, with three prongs (not feet, you are thinking of a tripod).
    AWordLover's explanation is the most likely - the gladiator would take a fighting stance with one foot in front of the other (for a variety of reasons - stability, reducing the strikable area facing the oponent, ease of movement). If he was on the back foot, it seems likely he was retreating or taking a defensive posture.
    Having said all that, I really don't understand the metaphor that has been quoted - the idea that someone being angry would be retreating doesn't seem likely, but perhaps it means that a gladiator who has been forced to retreat but is holding a trident (an extremely effective and versatile heavy weapon) is very dangerous.
    Isn't this a simile rather than a metaphor? We are saying it's "like" something else, i.e. similar to.
    Hmmmmmmmm.....So do we mean that he's only standing on one foot with the weapon in his hand?:confused:

    Thanks for the correction:D
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    Hmmmmmmmm.....So do we mean that he's only standing on one foot with the weapon in his hand?:confused:

    Thanks for the correction:D
    Not that he's standing on one foot, but that he has more of his weight over his back foot in preparation for taking a step backwards with the other foot.
     

    nichec

    Senior Member
    Chinese(Taiwan)/English(AE)
    Not that he's standing on one foot, but that he has more of his weight over his back foot in preparation for taking a step backwards with the other foot.
    I see......So he's like an angry tiger forced to the edge, that's why he's upset, I suppose:D
     

    nichec

    Senior Member
    Chinese(Taiwan)/English(AE)
    :D Exactly. In fact, I think your simile of an angry tiger is a much better one.
    But you know, I think it's quite touching too....Imagine how he fought for his whole life just to survive, and now he's on the edge of dying......(I am getting too emotional here, aren't I?:D)

    Thanks for your help, I totally understand the meaning now:)
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Not that he's standing on one foot, but that he has more of his weight over his back foot in preparation for taking a step backwards with the other foot.
    The following seems to confirm liliput's explanation:

    A sports commentator on BBC said that a team had been aggressive but now was 'on its back foot'. Apparently he meant that the team was no longer on the offensive, but preparing to retreat.

    This also suggests that 'to be on the back foot' is a fixed expression, since a team (unlike a gladiator) doesn't have a foot. Others may have been familiar with this expression, but I encountered it first in the original posting for this thread.
     

    TheAmzngTwinWndr

    Senior Member
    United States
    A gladiator is one who must kill or be killed. If he's on his "back foot" he is retreating, being "backed into a corner" if you will. Thus he has nowhere to go but forward, into the other gladiator. Thus, it is at this point where he is most dangerous, for now he is literally fighting for his life (as if he weren't doing so already) and must either attack or die. Thus the expression you asked about ("a gladiator on his back foot with a trident") means that one is very "dangerous", so to speak.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Cagey has it right, I think. This expression "caught on the back foot" is probably from boxing. The point is that if you are "on the back foot" you are not prepared either for attack or defence, you are unstable, you are at a serious competitive disadvantage.

    Similarly, if you lose your temper you have generally also lost the argument. You are not prepared for rational discussion or a logical presentation of your point of view.

    The trident is not directly relevant.
     
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