Posted by ESC on November 07, 2003
In Reply to: Backs to the wall posted by Eamon Younis on November 07, 2003
: what is the origin of this phrase?
WITH ONE'S BACK TO THE WALL -- "Hard-pressed, making a last stand. The expression comes from fighting. Literally backing up against a wall prevents an attack from the rear but also may prevent further retreat. The term has been used since the sixteenth century but became famous near the end of World War I, when General Douglas Haig of Great Britain, according to the London Times (April 13, 1918), ordered his troops 'Every position must be held to the last man...With our backs to the wall, and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight on to the end.'" From "Fighting Words: from War, Rebellion, and Other Combative Capers" by Christine Ammer (NTC Publishing Group, Chicago, 1989, 1999).