Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: taken aback.

This phrase (meaning “shocked or stunned, usu. by something someone has done”) is sometimes wrongly written — or wrongly said — *"taken back." E.g.: o “Never one to be taken back [read ‘taken aback’] by a new situation, even at the age of eight, Paula had learned a technique for disarming people.” Walter B. Barbe, “My Friend Paula” (1958), in Readings in the Language Arts 468, 469 (Verna Dieckman Anderson et al. eds., 1964). o “I was quite taken back [read ‘taken aback’] by her [Molly Ivins’s] referring to the reappointment of Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board as ‘disgusting.'” Letter of Richard H. Hinz, “Column, Not Greenspan, ‘Malodorous,'” Palm Beach Post, 6 Apr. 1996, at A9. o “‘Nothing to do with me?’ She was completely taken back [read ‘taken aback’]. ‘I can’t just stand by and see Sarah being cheated on.'” Isobel Stewart, “What Jenny Saw,” Good Housekeeping, Aug. 1996, at 137. Language-Change Index — *"taken back" misused for “taken aback”: Stage 2. *Invariably inferior form. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Assuming that most people are capable of writing a well-formed sentence, how do you teach them to write two well-formed and properly connected sentences, adding a third, and a fourth, and a fifth, to constitute a well-formed text?” Walter Nash, An Uncommon Tongue: The Uses and Resources of English 133 (1992).
Scroll to Top