Throw under the bus

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"To throw (someone) under the bus" is an idiomatic phrase in English meaning to betray a friend or ally for selfish reasons. It is typically used to describe a self-defensive disavowal and severance of a previously-friendly relationship when the relationship becomes controversial, unpopular, or inconvenient.


The earliest known usage of this phrase was 21 June 1982, when Julian Critchley of The Times (London) wrote "President Galtieri had pushed her under the bus which the gossips had said was the only means of her removal." [1]

The phrase has been widely popularized by sports journalists since 2004[ citation needed ] and was picked up by the US media during the 2008 political primary season. It has frequently been used to describe various politicians distancing themselves from suddenly unpopular or controversial figures whom the candidate has previously allied themselves with. David Segal, a writer for The Washington Post , calls the expression "the cliché of the 2008 campaign". [2]

In a March 2008 NPR report, the linguist Geoff Nunberg noted that "under the bus" "has appeared in more than 400 press stories on the campaign over the last six months". [3]


It seems possible that the expression throw/push/shove someone under the bus comes from Britain in the late 1970s or early 1980s. [4] [5]

After Julian Critchley, a relatively early use is attributed by the website Double-Tongued Dictionary [6] to a 1991 article in the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph . [7]

Cyndi Lauper is sometimes wrongly quoted [8] [9] as saying in The Washington Post in 1984: "In the rock 'n' roll business, you are either on the bus or under it. Playing 'Feelings' with Eddie and the Condos in a buffet bar in Butte is under the bus." However, those lines were written by journalist David Remnick in an article about Lauper, but they are not attributed in the article to her or anyone else. [10]


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  1. "Why Do We 'Throw Someone Under the Bus'?" Merriam-Webster website
  2. Segal, David (April 2, 2008). "Time to Hit The Brakes On That Cliche". The Washington Post . Retrieved 2008-10-26. This humble mode of transportation has become an unstoppable serial killer this presidential season, metaphorically speaking. Hardly a week goes by without someone reviving the cliche of the 2008 campaign – that a former ally of a candidate has been thrown under a bus.
  3. Nunberg, Geoff (April 2, 2008). "Primaries Toss Some 'Under the Bus'". Fresh Air . NPR . Retrieved 2008-10-26.
  4. "Throw under the bus origin". The Idioms. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  5. The Origins Of 'Throw Him (Or Her) Under The Bus'
  6. Barrett, Grant (October 2, 2006). "throw (someone) under the bus". Double-Tongued Dictionary . Retrieved 2009-01-02.
  7. Emory, Erin (December 12, 1991). "Hood talks without thinking, friends testify at murder trial". Gazette Telegraph .
  8. Safire, William (November 19, 2006). "Netroots". The New York Times Magazine . Retrieved 2006-11-19.
  9. Dokoupil, Tony (March 19, 2002). "'Under the Bus'". Newsweek . Retrieved 2009-01-02.
  10. Remnick, David (September 7, 1984). "Pensive, with Orange Hair Cyndi Lauper & Her Tunes on Tour". The Washington Post .
  11. "Barack Obama's former pastor says President 'threw him under bus'", May 18, 2010.
  12. "Did Egypt's Army Just Throw Mubarak Under The Bus?", Spencer Ackerman, January 31, 2011.
  13. "Did Microsoft throw users under the bus?"
  14. "Bill Belichick throws Tom Brady under the bus", Ben Volin, January 22, 2015.
  15. "Al Roker Suggests That Matt Lauer Threw Ann Curry "Under The Bus".", August 16, 2012
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