We've all heard the phrase that usually goes along the lines of "blah blah did something behind my back". I've always thought that from your back's point of view, anything behind you is in front of it therefore behind your back is in front of you. Is this just another unnecessary redundancy and should we all just say "behind me" or am I reading too much into this?

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    Something that is behind something else (your back) that is 'behind' you is behind you. Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 14:41
  • If it were to be in front of you, it would have to be behind the inside (or flip side) of your back… and even that could arguably also just as easily be behind you. Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 19:12
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5 Answers 5


I think behind your back is redundant, but not nonsensical. Something that's behind your back is behind you -- not just behind your toes or your nose, but even further to the rear -- behind your furthest back part.

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    It's not syntactically redundant. Some preposition is needed in front of 'your back'. Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 0:27

I've always thought that from your back's point of view, anything behind you is in front of it therefore behind your back is in front of you

If that was true then it would be impossible to be behind anything. For example if one said that something is "behind my house", of course it is actually in front of one of the surfaces of my house so it could not be "behind my house".

It's much the same as doing something "in front of my eyes" rather than "in front of me". I think this is called "the power of idiom" or something like that; once a phrase becomes an idiom it doesn't have to make sense any more.

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    If your example was "behind the back of my house" then would that be the front of your house? This is my point, we don't say "behind the back" we just say "behind".
    – soutarm
    Commented Sep 1, 2010 at 3:59
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    @soutarm: No, "behind the back of my house" would not mean the front of my house. It would be a strangely redundant expression, but the likely meaning would still be something like "behind my house, a little further away than the back of my house". Commented Sep 1, 2010 at 4:49

The phrase "went behind my back" is to emphasize hidden and sneaky behavior. You can not say "in front of my back" because that seems like you could face your own back, but you cannot. Your back in this sense is a noun. Think backache.

This phrase is more of a saying than literally meaning physically behind you. It means that you were not consulted, but excluded from a decision.


I've thought along the same lines as the OP since the early 90s. I take it as a double reversal, and so the "behind" and "back" negate each other; very similar to a double negative. Other than that, it is probably a chopped combination of meaningful phrases like "behind me" and "when my back is turned." Finally, it is only spoken in angry and retaliatory contexts, or those joking about the same, and so it really shouldn't have a place in my conversations, except in the latter case (where I can additionally point others to its fallacies).


I agree that it is unnecessary. People are arguing that it's not because reasons. But their reasons are also nonsensical. Everything behind your relative front is behind you. Your back is behind your relative front. Your back is not your relative front so being behind what is already behind your relative front is in front of you. You can't defend the idiom by saying "No. Because my face has a nose and my but has no tail and stop signs are red to get your attention what is back is further than the moon so behind your back is Mars."

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