English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What's the meaning of backwards here? Does it mean it's going towards a worse state?

English is hands down the most comprehensive and efficient language. The language of an advanced civilization

lol I know you are goofing around but after learning Spanish and being able to speak it fluently for almost 15+ years now, English is such a backwards piece of s***.

share|improve this question

closed as general reference by Mitch, Hugo, RegDwigнt May 27 '12 at 17:46

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

There's more than one definition in the dictionary. Did you find an alternative that fit here? – Mitch May 27 '12 at 1:00
There's one similar to TimLymington's answer "moving in a direction that means that no progress is being made". – Theo May 27 '12 at 2:55
up vote 4 down vote accepted

If it does mean that, the commenter doesn't know as much about English as he imagines; backwards in that sense can only be applied to a verb. Backward would fit, as the opposite of advanced; whether that can properly be applied to a language (as opposed to a creole) is probably beyond the scope of this site.

share|improve this answer

I'm not so sure I buy the "backwards to a worse state" theory. It is very common to hear people talk about a particular place or group of people as "backwards." It is not, in my experience, typically used as a relational adjective.

The meaning is very similar to "provincial" though I'm not sure of the origin. There are other variants that I expect are related, especially when discussing geographical locations. For example:

One critic who gave the Manet show highest marks was the New York Times's John Canaday, who then went on to blast New York as a "cultural backwater" because the show would not be seen at any of its museums.

share|improve this answer
+1 for an alternative to "…to a worse state." I have definitely heard it used to mean "provincial" as well. Wordnik also gives one option as "adj. Clumsy, inept, or inefficient," which could be the intended meaning here. – Cameron May 26 '12 at 19:51

In this example “backwards” is used as an adjective, and therefore incorrectly. “Backwards” is an adverb (roughly, modifies anything but nouns), “backward” can be used both as an adverb (thus, safer bet, if less expressive), and as an adjective (modifier or qualifier of nouns and noun phrases).

share|improve this answer

Look at the second case under entry #3 here:

towards or into a worse state

It means that, after having learned Spanish, English looks like going back to a worse state. Exactly as you imagined.

share|improve this answer
ha. English learned Spanish, to its (English's) detriment? – Bobbi Bennett May 26 '12 at 21:42
@BobbiBennett: What do you mean? – CesarGon May 27 '12 at 0:36
@Cesar: your last sentence, as written, means that the English language learned Spanish and suffered from it. Time to re-check the rules on word order, perhaps? – TimLymington May 27 '12 at 11:27
@BobbiBennett: Oh, I see. Thank you. I am fixing it now. – CesarGon May 27 '12 at 11:31
Well, it was ambiguous. Any rational person would read it the way you intended. I am sorry if my amusement was at your expense. – Bobbi Bennett May 27 '12 at 14:06

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.