To "throw (someone) under the bus" is an idiomatic phrase in English meaning to abandon a friend or ally for selfish reasons. It is typically used to describe a disavowal and possibly severance of a previously amicable or warm relationship. The sacrificing of this relationship or connection may occur out of selfish gain or convenience, to avoid a perceived embarrassment, or to prevent being associated with a controversial person, position or opinion. Some might see a connection between the 1980s alleged origins to the 1960's philosophical thought experiment of the "Trolley Car" introduced by Phillipa Foot where one "fat man" (an innocent) is pushed from the footbridge (under the trolley) so that the trolley would be stopped and the lives of 5 others would thereby be saved.
It seems possible that the expression throw/push/shove someone under the bus comes from Britain in the late 1970s or early 1980s.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."
After Julian Critchley, a relatively early use is attributed by the website Double-Tongued Dictionaryto a 1991 article in the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph .
Cyndi Lauper is sometimes wrongly quotedas 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.
The phrase 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 with whom the candidate has previously allied themselves. David Segal, a writer for The Washington Post , calls the expression "the cliché of the 2008 campaign".
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".
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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.