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Throw under the bus

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  • The clichéd expression throw under the bus means, roughly, (1) to betray, (2) to callously dispose of, or (3) to pass blame onto another for selfish reasons. It has been ubiquitous in the U.S. media for several years. While the expression might work in rare circumstances, it reeks of hyperbole and introduces violent imagery where it usually isn’t called for.

    In our search for examples in the news, about half the instances of under the bus dealt with actual vehicular violence, which to us confirms that the expression is not just overextreme but insensitive. Granted, there are many common expressions that evoke violence (including the synonymous stab in the back), but this one is worse because it’s so ubiquitous.

    If betray isn’t a good enough replacement for throw under the bus, consider double-crossdupe, put one overbamboozlehang out to dry, or sell out. Some of these are themselves clichés, but at least they’re not widely overused at the moment.

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    Examples

    The president threw the poor and the working class under the bus to curry favor with the Republicans. [letter to Auburn Citizen]

    Quebec is the only province that won’t throw Muslim women under the bus in order to satisfy the strictures of multicultural correctness. [National Post]

    He surely benefited from his juxtaposition to Clemens, who was willing to throw everyone under the bus—including his wife—to save his own skin. [NY Times]

    With his re-election on the line, Obama did what he did best as a legislator — vote “present” and toss someone under the bus. [Winnipeg Free Press]

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    Comments

    1. I think that violent imagery is part of what has come to define American politics. Our representatives no longer find it sufficient to work for us; they have to fight for us. With political races being treated with the same (lack of) respect as a WWE bout, it’s no wonder the public discourse has been cheapened and suffused with violent verbiage. And it goes downhill from there….

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