Oxford Dictionaries Online writes in their U.S. section that the phase cover one’s ass is an informal phrase meaning:
Foresee and avoid the possibility of attack or criticism.
- ‘I like to cover my ass when I make big generalizations’
And if you search for that same phrase in their general dictionary covering World English, you’ll notice that they mention how cover one’s ass is specifically a North American expression.
The Wikipedia page for Cover your ass says:
The phrase cover your ass is generally viewed as a vulgar term, often replaced by the less-vulgar sounding initials CYA. Safire identified CYA as a synecdoche, in the same sense that the word “ass” had come to reference the whole person.
The entry for cover someone’s ass in Wiktionary states begins:
- (Canada, US, idiomatic) To make preparations or take precautions to ensure that a person is not blamed or punished for his or her conduct.
Collins English Dictionary says in its entry for the phrase that:
slang, mainly US and Canadian
to take such action as one considers necessary to avoid censure, ridicule, etc at a later time
While dictionary-dot-com’s page for cover one’s ass mentions (but only in their example citations, not their definition section): that some call it risk management
To provide or arrange for exculpation; devise excuses and alibis:
- Some call it “risk management,” others “covering your ass.”
- The FBI may have to let you be destroyed to cover its own ass.
- CYA, you know, that old French expression that means making sure that when historians write about it all it won’t be seen as happening on your shift.
credited to The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.; Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
Risk management is a nice little phrase, but what other non-vulgar expressions are there that means the same thing as covering one’s ass means, but without being considered vulgar?