A bum steer

To give a bum steer is a predominantly Australian and New Zealand idiom which is evident from the 19th century use and means to provide information that is not correct [for example, p.137, Kitching] , was not found helpful, or caused one to be led astray. It does not imply either intentional or unintentional provision of information [p.468, Urdang] , and is not generally regarded as pejorative.

The "steer" in the idiom is not related to the bovines. [p.49, Smith] Its origin is suggested to be derived from the American maritime humour of trying to steer a vessel in reverse where its stern construction [p.1619, The Chambers Dictionary] , in the 19th century, lacked the streamlines of the bow, and is therefore prone with miscalculated manoeuvring when using the rudder. [p.73, Day] The manoeuvring was accomplished through shouted instructions on the wharf to the wheelhouse where the steering was performed, via intermediary deckhands [ [http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/deckhand deckhand] ] , and was therefore prone to misunderstanding owing to the wide variety of nationalities employed on United States merchant vessels during the 19th century.

The idiom, as used in Australia and New Zealand, reached the United States in the 1920s [p.125, Barnhart, Steinmetz] probably after exposure to Australian troops on the Western Front, and is recorded in the UK since 1944. [p.32, Fergusson, Partridge, Beale]

In the United States the expression refers to a poorly conditioned young bullock. [p.43, Kirkpatrick, Schwarz]

Citations and notes

References

* Smith, Chrysti M., "Verbivore's Feast: A Banquet of Word & Phrase Origins", Farcountry Press, 2003
* Kirkpatrick, E. M., Schwarz, C. M., "The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms", Wordsworth Editions, 1993
* Fergusson, Rosalind, Partridge, Eric, Beale, Paul, "Shorter Slang Dictionary: From the Work of Eric Partridge and Paul Beale", Routledge, 1994
* Kitching, G. N., "Wittgenstein and Society: Essays in Conceptual Puzzlement", Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2003
* Urdang, Laurence, "The Oxford Thesaurus: An A-Z Dictionary of Synonyms", Clarendon Press, 1991
* Barnhart, Robert K., Steinmetz, Sol, "The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology", H.W. Wilson Co., 1988
* Day, Thomas Fleming, "Rudder", Fawcett Publications, 1958
* The Chambers Dictionary, Edinburgh, Allied Publishers, 2007


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • bum steer — noun count INFORMAL a piece of false information or bad advice that influences you to do the wrong thing …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • bum steer — {n.} Wrong or misleading directions given naively or on purpose. * /Man, you sure gave me a bum steer when you told me to go north on the highway; you should have sent me south!/ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • bum steer — {n.} Wrong or misleading directions given naively or on purpose. * /Man, you sure gave me a bum steer when you told me to go north on the highway; you should have sent me south!/ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • bum steer — noun Etymology: bum (VIII) slang : an instance of false or misleading information or directions especially when purposely so a man who got himself a bum steer … and was attempting to brazen it out rather than admit his error R.H.Rovere * * * bum… …   Useful english dictionary

  • bum steer — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms bum steer : singular bum steer plural bum steers informal a piece of false information or bad advice that influences you to do the wrong thing …   English dictionary

  • bum steer — [“bm “stir] n. a false lead; false information. □ You sure gave me a bum steer when you told me who he was. □ We spent all day checking out what turned out to be a bum steer …   Dictionary of American slang and colloquial expressions

  • bum steer — noun bad advice, regardless of intention. He never, so far as I knew, gave me a bum steer …   Wiktionary

  • bum\ steer — noun Wrong or misleading directions given naively or on purpose. Man, you sure gave me a bum steer when you told me to go north on the highway; you should have sent me south! …   Словарь американских идиом

  • Bum steer — incorrect information or advice, misleading idea or suggested course of action …   Dictionary of Australian slang

  • bum steer — Australian Slang incorrect information or advice, misleading idea or suggested course of action …   English dialects glossary

  • bum steer — noun N. Amer. informal a piece of false information …   English new terms dictionary


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