Posted by Smokey Stover on July 04, 2005
In Reply to: You got my back posted by Smokey Stover on July 01, 2005
: : Where did the expression "you got my back" or "He/she's got my back" come from?
: : Isn't it a fairly new expression?
: If you go to: www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/41/messages/676.html
: and go all the way to the end,you may find a useful comment. The term "fairly new" is pretty elastic, butI believe you're right. SS
Whoever posted the answer above could have been more to the point. "I've got your back" is a complementary phrase to "Watch my back." I may have the chronology wrong, but I think "Watch my back" became a useful expression in World War II. In chasing retreating armies, advancing armies had to perform many "mop-up" operations with small squads of men trying to clean out defensive positions not only in pillbox installations and other military defenses, but also in civilian houses or other buildings, searching house to house, for instance, in order to be sure a city's streets were free of snipers. As in the case of, say, commando raids, much depended on the courage of the individual men, and a big hazard was the fact that enemy soldiers could be anywhere, including right behind you. The man chosen to be first through the door of any unsecured room needed to be sure he wouldn't be attacked from behind, hence, "Watch my back," said to his buddies as he pressed forward. "I've got your back" (which I think may be a more recent expression) means, "I'm right here watching to see that no one comes up on you from behind."
This situation repeated itself many times during the war, and in many places. The Russians and Germans must surely have had their equivalent phrases. After the war similar situations continued to occur frequently in police work, and of course in every new military engagement..
I have no authority or source for this account. The expression may have been invented for the movies. So the floor is open to those who may know better. SS