24

I am interested in knowing what words/phrase/idioms I can use to express a double reversal of decision.

To illustrate that with an hypothetical example to clear any confusion that may have risen :

I had the idea of buying a phone for someone, decided against it, and then thought about it a bit more and ultimately chose to do it.

What do you think about saying "I changed my mind, and then I changed my mind back." in that context?

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

12 Answers 12

50

To come full circle could work. Here are several definitions and examples of the phrase:

To return to the same situation or attitude you originally had. I left publishing, tried teaching, and now I've come full circle back to publishing.[1]

When something “comes full circle,” it completes a cycle, returns to its beginnings: The novelist's vision of human life has come full circle—from optimism to pessimism and back to optimism again. [2]

In the comments below, an idiom describing "returning to a starting point after going around in a full circle[,] especially in the context of unsuccessfully trying to find one's way in a maze" was requested.

I would suggest Going around in circles or Walking in circles. Examples:

To move over and over on a circular path. The model plane went around in circles until it ran out of fuel. The oxen went around in circles, pulling along a beam that was connected to the millstone.[3]

To act in a confused and disoriented manner. I've been going around in circles all day. The children have been going around in circles, waiting for you to arrive.[3]

To keep going over the same ideas or repeating the same actions, often resulting in confusion, without reaching a satisfactory decision or conclusion. We're just going round in circles discussing the problem. We need to consult someone else to get a new point of view. Fred's trying to find out what's happened but he's going round in circles. No one will tell him anything useful.[3]

This expression is frequently used in the context of being lost. Upon realizing that one has returned to a location one has already visited, one might remark, "it looks like I've been walking in circles".


Citations:

1 The Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms © 2002
2 The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition © 2005
2 McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs © 2005

  • To go full circle is also used, perhaps more commonly. I have no idea whether it is less or more gramatically correct, I'm just reporting what I hear (in the UK). – nigel222 Feb 23 '17 at 11:34
  • Can the phrase be used more literally to mean I travelled in a circle and returned to the starting point (intentionally or unintentionally) – JUNCINATOR Mar 5 '17 at 12:05
  • @JUNCINATOR You could use the phrase to describe physically leaving and then returning to a starting point, but with a couple of caveats. First, despite including the word "circle", this phrase does not necessarily imply circular motion. Second, this phrase would imply somewhat of a longer journey, during which you settle down at one or more places on the way, before returning to the starting point and settling down there once again. – Aurast Mar 5 '17 at 15:17
  • Thanks. What phrases/idioms can I use to better describe returning to a starting point after going around in a full circle? Especially in the context of unsuccessfully trying to find one's way in a maze. – JUNCINATOR Mar 5 '17 at 15:41
  • @JUNCINATOR I edited my answer to include information about the expression Going around in circles which may be what you're looking for. – Aurast Mar 5 '17 at 16:08
39

I might suggest that you have flip-flopped on the idea of buying a new phone but ultimately decided to purchase it.

I might also say that you waffled on the idea before buying your new phone.

  • 1
    I think "waffling" actually does work quite well here. OP carried through with the initial decision in the end but had not stuck to it with total commitment. – Darren Ringer Feb 21 '17 at 19:22
  • I thought of flip-flopped when the question was posed, but flip-flopped by definition appears to only be half of what the OP wants. – J.R. Feb 22 '17 at 1:12
  • 4
    "Waffle" is a poor choice, because the reader will think you talked a lot, vaguely, about your phone. – Rosie F Feb 22 '17 at 7:25
  • @RosieF Indeed a flabbergasting waffle use – Pierre Arlaud Feb 23 '17 at 14:13
  • With all due respect to Harry the Dirty Dog and Senator Kerry, perhaps "flip-flopped, and flop-flipped" would work. – gowenfawr Feb 23 '17 at 21:10
13

Consider reconsider.

to consider again, especially with a view to change of decision or action: ex., to reconsider a refusal.

Parliamentary Procedure. to take up for consideration a second time, as a motion or a vote, as with the view of reversing or modifying action taken.

While it does not always mean you will reverse the decision, it means you will think about it again.

I had the idea of buying a phone for someone, decided against it, but on reconsideration chose to do it.

  • 1
    Although reconsideration does not always result in different outcome. – Jim Feb 21 '17 at 16:03
  • 6
    I considered reconsider, initially, without acceptance, but eventually reconsidered reconsider after considerable thought. – Hank Feb 21 '17 at 16:05
  • agreed, Jim. That's why I said "it does not always mean you will reverse the decision." – rajah9 Feb 21 '17 at 16:06
  • 4
    @Hank, tongue planted firmly in cheek. Perhaps with considerable thought you might reconsider reconsidering reconsider. On reconsideration, let's call the whole thing off. I'm upvoting the Gershwin answer. – rajah9 Feb 21 '17 at 16:07
13

Did a 360.

Two 180s, a Uturn followed by a Uturn.

  • 3
    This might be a better answer if it had any references (I'm sure some exist, the phrase came up at least in The Last Action Hero, but I'd hope to find others) or if it were explained a little more thoroughly. Compare the answer that recommended come full circle, which invokes the same idea of turning all the way around; that answer provided documentation for the usage of that phrase. – David K Feb 21 '17 at 22:21
  • Here's something, anyway – Graph Theory Feb 21 '17 at 23:15
  • @txteclipse And then there's this, showing how not to use such an expression: twitter.com/basketballquote/status/417180605353193472 – David K Feb 22 '17 at 2:07
  • 1
    @DavidK Agreed. This is one of those cases where a significant number of people mix up the meanings (kinda like "could care less" vs. "couldn't care less"): you risk part of your audience misunderstanding your intent. – Graph Theory Feb 22 '17 at 16:26
10

You can say that you returned to the original idea. This phrase includes the notion of starting with one idea, moving to a different idea, then going back to the first idea.

Here are some examples of this phrase being used (emphasis, mine):

  • After a failed approach to create a cheaper version of this experiment as part of his diploma thesis in 1930, Ruska returned to the original idea of using short coils as lenses. - nobleprize.org

  • [Maurepas's] opening correspondence in 1728 rejected the plan of a separate lighthouse and returned to the original idea of a light in the tower over the barracks. - Parks Canada History (kindly suggested by J.R. in comments)

  • Therefore, we returned to the original idea to implement Asprova in Sulzbach, and unify the system with other manufacturing plants. - AIMagazine

In your case, you returned to the original idea of buying the phone (for "someone").

  • I like this suggestion, and I like this answer. However, I don't think your middle sentence is a good example usage in this context. (Insofar as I can tell, Bintley wasn't returning to an earlier idea that he had for the production; instead, he was going back to a more traditional way that other earlier productions had been cast.) This has perhaps a more fitting example. – J.R. Feb 21 '17 at 16:04
  • @J.R. Thanks. I kept it in because I thought it could apply to the community of playwrights. It may confuse the issue though, so I'll remove it. – Lawrence Feb 21 '17 at 23:15
5

You can say you have gone back and forth or have oscillated on an issue / on your position.

The verb oscillate can be traced back to the Latin word oscillum, meaning "swing," so it makes sense that oscillate is used to describe an object like a fan or a pendulum that swings from side to side. The word also can be used to describe a different kind of motion — the wavering of someone who is going back and forth between conflicting beliefs or actions. If you’ve ever had trouble making up your mind about something, you probably know what it feels like to oscillate — back and forth from one decision and to another and then back again. And again. And again.

Vocabulary.com (an excellent 'plain language' dictionary)

  • 3
    Vacillate embodies the same concept but specifically with regard to decision making. – barbecue Feb 22 '17 at 22:27
  • Good point, thank you! There is a subtle distinction between oscillate and vacillate in my understanding, which is that the former implies going fully from one position to the other and back again, etc, whereas the latter implies hovering back and forth between the two extremes but not quite ever making a decision per se. So the latter implies more hesitation and indecisiveness, rather than constant backtracking. – Tasos Papastylianou Feb 23 '17 at 1:54
4

If you want to emphasize the reversal, you can use Better call the calling off off. That phrase comes from Ira Gershwin's lyrics for Let's Call The Whole Thing Off. The sound of that phrase will be more familiar to the reader, and 'calling off off' is quicker to understand than 'walk back back.'

  • Thanks for your answer. Can I also have your opinion on 'change my mind back'? Does it sound like good english to you? – JUNCINATOR Feb 21 '17 at 16:43
  • Say I changed my mind again, or I changed my mind back to the first idea, or Sorry, I changed my mind back. – Yosef Baskin Feb 21 '17 at 16:49
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    I wonder if "call the calling off off" is widely understood mainly because so many people have heard the song. Maybe someone needs to write a song that concludes, "Let's walk the walking back back." Sounds catchy! – David K Feb 21 '17 at 22:11
  • 'Let's call the calling off off' does not record a vast number of Google hits, and is either quirky or awkward. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 22 '17 at 9:22
  • 1
    +1000 for invoking 'Let's Call the Whole Thing Off'. Delightful answer. – EleventhDoctor Feb 22 '17 at 15:15
4

When you're moving in one direction, you might decide to reverse course and return to your earlier position. This can be called doubling back. This term is often used as a metaphor for returning to a prior opinion after exploring a new alternative opinion and finding it less desirable than the original.

While advancing a line of reasoning, if you pursue a new idea and later decide that idea isn't worth pursuing, you can backpedal and abandon that idea in favor of finding a different one. This term compares the act of ceasing to pursue a new idea with the physical act of pedaling backwards on a bicycle, causing the bicycle to stop (at least for simpler types of bicycle, as were prevalent when the idiom was likely first popularized).

2

Rather than selecting an expression from a thesaurus for you, I will answer the question

What do you think about saying "I changed my mind, and then I changed my mind back" in that context?

You're almost there.

I changed my mind, and then I went back to my original idea.

By the way, the expression in your title doesn't work in English!

  • 2
    "By the way, the expression in your title doesn't work in English!" Hence the question asking for one that does. Although, actually, IMO it does. – Lightness Races in Orbit Feb 22 '17 at 19:04
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit - What? Walk your walk, back back? It sounds like something that might work really well in some other language. I have proposed an edit to the title. See what you think. – aparente001 Feb 22 '17 at 21:34
  • You dishonestly added a comma. Remove it, and read the actual original text. If it helps, you can rearrange it - "walk back your walk-back" - though that's not necessary. – Lightness Races in Orbit Feb 23 '17 at 0:53
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit - If the original title works for you, more power to you! – aparente001 Feb 23 '17 at 3:23
1

"I did an about face" is also heard in reference to reversing an opinion or course of action.

  • Yes, also 'I did a volte face'... – EleventhDoctor Feb 27 '17 at 11:40
1

I do prefer 'to come full circle', as already voted here but if the reason for not going with plan A was perhaps because of a noticeable flaw in it, where plan B at first seemed better but then on reflection perhaps not, you could also consider:

  • to bite the bullet

"To 'bite the bullet' is to endure a painful or otherwise unpleasant situation that is seen as unavoidable" - Wikipedia

The key point here is that the 'original idea' is that which was unavoidable.

1

Perhaps a little stretched with regard to your opinion of a handphone, but ...

You recanted your beliefs/opinions.

to announce in public that your past beliefs or statements were wrong and that you no longer agree with them

‘Galileo was forced to recant his assertion that the earth orbited the sun’

also

say that one no longer holds an opinion or belief, especially one considered heretical. "heretics were burned if they would not recant" synonyms: renounce, forswear, disavow, deny, repudiate, renege on, abjure, relinquish, abandon;

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