in situations when someone said something inappropriate, unintentionally, and then quickly realize what they said is inappropriate, so they try to add to their statement to make it sound like less inappropriate or try to redirect the mean to a different subject entirely. How is this behaviour phrased?

  • 1
    I would say you are "recovering the situation", but I am sure there are other, maybe better, expressions for this.
    – Lee Leon
    Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 8:17

1 Answer 1


It sounds like back-pedalling (or backpedalling, without the hyphen, either is acceptable, or backpedaling, with one 'l').


verb (used without object), back-pedaled, back-pedaling or (especially British) back-pedalled, back-pedalling.
1.  to retard the forward motion by pressing backward on the pedal, especially of a bicycle with coaster brakes.
2.  to retreat from or reverse one's previous stand on any matter; shift ground: to back-pedal after severe criticism.
3.  Boxing. to retreat from an opponent, especially by stepping rapidly backward.

eg, from https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-to-backpedal-out-of-a-bad-conversation-without-making-things-worse

Oh, uh, I didn’t mean to… well, what I meant was, um, well, uh… that didn’t come out right. What I’m trying to say is, uh…

Sound familiar? We’ve all been there—those panicky moments when your stomach jumps into your throat because you let a few wrong words fly out of your mouth before you even had a chance to think about exactly what you were saying. Now you’re stuck trying to backpedal and retract that foolish statement without causing even more damage. And, that’s not always easy.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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