Posted by Robert Smith on November 22, 2000
In Reply to: Bum steer posted by ESC on June 14, 2000
My mom hails from Kansas (Dodge City area) and they were using the term at the turn of the century or earlier. Always meant-bad advice.
: : : My father was a New Zealander and would use this phrase in the context 'would I ever give you a bum steer?'
: : : Where does this expression come from and what does it mean?
: : This expression is also quite common in Australia.
: : My understanding of 'bum steer' is - to be led astray, intentionally or unintentionally, by mis-leading or wrong information.
: : i.e. 'bum' meaning 'no good', and 'steer' meaning to 'guide in a particular direction'.
: : Actually I've just found it in the Macquarie (Australian) dictionary, and it just says 'incorrect information or advice'.
: : I am always interested in the 'alternate imagery' of a phrase, in this case it would be 'buttocks cattle' ('bum' also being the word for buttocks here in Australia). It seems that such phrases are always overlayed, subtly or unconsciously, with the alternate imagery. In this case I don't know whether the imagery is useful or misleading!?
: BUM STEER -- In a section devoted to the influence of German immigrants on the American language, Stuart Berg Flexner ("I Hear America Talking, Von Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1976) writes: "bummer (German 'Bummler,' loafer from 'bummeln,' to waste time, loaf), 1855, in the Civil War it meant a foraging soldier." and lists "bum" phrases including "a 'bum steer,' a false report, 1903."