AE 418 – Expression: To Stab Someone in the Back

Learn Australian English in this expression episode of The Aussie English Podcast where I teach you how to use the expression TO STAB SOMEONE IN THE BACK like a native speaker.

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AE 418 – Expression: To Stab Someone in the Back

We go ahead as planned. 

Come on lads. Unload your rifles. Nothing up the spout. We’re going in with the bayonets. No bullets. Unload. Nothing up the spout. We’re going in with the bayonets. Steady lads. Wait for it.


Hey guys. What’s going on? Welcome to this episode of the Aussie English Podcast, the number one podcast for anyone and everyone wanting to learn Australian English. Remember, this podcast is brought to you by the Aussie English Classroom, an online classroom with all the bonus content including courses, lessons, quizzes, the bonus MP3s, all the extra stuff that comes with the podcast and the YouTube channel and everything else Aussie English. So, if you want to get in there, guys, and you want to support the podcast, sign up and give it a go. It’s a dollar for your first month, and then it’s a small monthly fee after that.

Anyway guys, if it’s your first time listening, big thank you for joining us on the Aussie English Podcast. It is a massive pleasure to have you with us today. And if you’ve been listening for quite a while now or even a short time, also big thanks to you, and glad to have you back.

Intro Scene:

So, today’s movie scene, guys. I wonder if you know the movie or maybe you even know where this is from in history. It’s from a movie called Gallipoli, and Gallipoli was a movie made, I think, in the 80s starring Mel Gibson. I’ll have to look up the exact year. But Mel Gibson’s in this film. I’m sure you guys know him, because he’s famous and also infamous.

So, the movie’s about the Allied forces going into trench warfare with the Ottoman Empire, which would eventually become modern day Turkey. We’ll talk a bit more about that, about ANZACs, and ANZAC Day, in today’s Aussie fact, but that’s the intro scene there.

And the reason that we’re going to be talking about Gallipoli is because today’s expression originates from the First World War.

So, don’t forget too, guys, if you want the free downloads for today jump over to the website, and you can get the transcript, the full transcript, everything that I say, you can use that to study. You can print it out. You can read it on your phone. It’s up to you. And you’ll also get the MP3 with that. But don’t forget to jump over to the website and download it.

Aussie Joke:

Anyway, today’s Aussie joke. Although, it’s not an Aussie joke. It’s just a joke, okay? But it’s a funny one, it’s a one-liner, and I hope you guys appreciate it. Okay so the joke is:

The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar… and it was “tense”. It was tense.

Do you get it, guys? So, the past, the present, and the future walked into a bar and it was “tense”.

So, the joke there is… we tend to have in English these jokes where you have three different people of different races or different nationalities walking into a bar, for instance, maybe, you know, “You’ve got a priest, an atheist, and a dead person walk into a bar…”. You’ll have those kind of jokes all the time in English. This one’s obviously using tenses, verb tenses, in English, and the play on words here is using the word “tense”, to say it was tense, because their verb tenses, but also the word “tense” means unable to relax because of nervousness, anxiety, or stimulation. So, that’s the joke the, guys.


Alright, today’s expression, and this was picked by me, and we all voted on this one in the Aussie English Classroom. If you remember, remember to get in there and vote on each week’s expression. This one is “To stab someone in the back”, “To stab someone in the back”. I wonder if you’ve heard this expression before and if you know what it means. “To stab someone in the back”.

Before we get into the expression, what it means, where it originated from, and then go through some examples, let’s define the words in the expression.


So, “to stab”, the verb “to stab”. If you stab something or someone you thrust a knife or other pointed object, usually a weapon, into that thing or that person in order to wound them or kill them. So, you stab someone with a knife. You could stab someone with a spear. That’s the verb “to stab”.

“Someone”. I’m sure you guys all know the word “someone”, an unknown or unspecified person. Some person.

“In”. Why “in”? Why are we using “in” here. “In” is obviously the particle, it’s the sort of “out”. You’re inside as opposed to outside. You’re in instead of out. When you stab someone or something, the object that you’re using, the knife or whatever else it is, goes in to that thing. It enters that thing. So, any time you use the verb “stab” and you want to talk about the thing going in to someone, you say, “I stabbed the knife in to the person”.

“The back” or “a back”. “The back” is the rear surface of a human body, in this example. Usually from the shoulders down to the hips. (It) can be any animal as well. Its “back” is the opposite of its front, which is usually its belly. Okay? Its “back”. It’s sort of the rear surface of something.

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Expression Definition & Origin:

So, let’s go through and define the expression, guys. So, do you know the expression “To stab someone in the back” and what it means?

Obviously literally, “to stab someone in the back” is just that. It’s to stab someone with a knife or some kind of sharp object and stab them in their back. But figuratively, it’s to betray someone. Right? To betray someone. To do something that is against what you’ve promised that person or what’s in the best interests for that person. Right? So, I guess the idea here is that if you stab someone in the back, you’re betraying them because you stabbing them, but they also didn’t see it coming, and that’s why you’re stabbing them in the back as opposed to the front. You’re doing it from behind. So, “to stab someone in the back” is to betray someone.

You’ll often hear the term “a backstabber” too, when we’re talking about a person. So, we’ll refer to someone who stabbed someone else in the back as “a backstabber”, someone who betrays others.

And another interesting expression that I also thought of whilst researching this one is “to go behind someone’s back”, which means to do something that is kept secret from someone who is affected by that thing. So, if you go behind someone’s back, it’s to do something secretly that will affect this person without their knowledge though. You’re doing it without their knowledge. Okay?

So, you’ll see that with some expressions in English. Whenever we used “back” like that it tends to be when it’s unseen by someone, without them noticing, because it’s behind them, and your eyes are obviously in the front.

So, the origin of this expression was really interesting. And I’ve actually just copied the text, because the explanation was pretty dense and really well worded. So, the explanation that I found was on the website Quora, and it was written by someone called Harold Scannell. So, I’ll read that for you now, guys.

It regards World War One. The end of the war was marked by the defeat of the German army by the Allied forces. The German forces actually petitioned for an armistice, but the terms of that included terminology that the Army hadn’t actually been defeated and only had made peace. So, at home the German people had been suffering greatly with a lack of supplies. They believed this story that the German army could have won if they hadn’t been forced by the German authorities to accept peace. This was deemed as a stab in the back to the army.

So, the German authorities here stabbed the army in the back by making them make peace with the allied forces. Okay? To stab someone in the back.

There was also German propaganda to the effect that the German Jew was weakening the German army due to subversive activities, allying with their enemies and such. This was part of the war machine meant to vilify them and have the population except the disappearances of their Jewish neighbours. There were more than a few political cartoons showing Jews stabbing the German army in the back. A betrayal of trust, since they were Germans and should have been supporting the German army. Naturally, the Jews had been trying to survive, but this accusation was pretty much entirely false.

So, German propaganda was being used to stab the Jews in the back, and we’re suggesting that the Jews were stabbing the German people in the back, and the German people, obviously, thought the German army had been stabbed in the back by the German authorities when it was made to accept peace, because they thought the army could have won.


Anyway, guys, let’s go through some examples as usual, and we’ll try and use this expression, “to stab someone in the back”, using three different examples. Three little made up stories where we could hypothetically use this expression to explain the story.


Alright, example no one. Imagine that you are a girl in high school, and you’ve got a girlfriend, a best friend. We often use “girlfriend” to refer to a girl’s best friend, as well as a lover or a partner, it can be used for that too. But in this case, imagine it’s a friend, an actual friend, and this friend has just broken up with her boyfriend. And you think that her boyfriend’s a bit of a hottie, which means you are attracted to this guy. You think he’s attractive. You think he’s hot. He’s a bit of a hottie. And you decide to ask him out on a date. You know this is going to upset your friend, and that maybe you should tell your friend, but you decide not to, because you’re worried about her response. So, instead you go behind her back, you ask out her ex-boyfriend, and end up in a relationship with him. When your friend finds out, she might consider you a bit of a backstabber, because you’ve gone behind her back, you’ve stabbed her in the back, you’ve asked her ex-boyfriend out, and now you’re in a relationship with her ex-boyfriend. You’ve stabbed her in the back. You’ve betrayed her.


Example number two. Imagine you’re an Aussie bloke or an Aussie sheila, you know, you’re looking for a new car. You want to buy a car. Maybe it’s a Ford. Maybe it’s a Holden. Maybe it’s a V8 or a V6. You’re a bit of a revhead, and you want to get a car secondhand so you can go hooning around the streets, chill out with your mates, maybe even do a few doughies, as long as you don’t get caught by the cops. So, you’re looking on Gumtree, the website in Australia for buying second hand stuff, and you find this really cool Holden or Ford V8, and you think, “Oh, this is going to be a ripper! I’m going to buy this one.”. You ask your mate for some advice, because he’s a revhead, he loves his cars, and he’s a mechanic. So, maybe he works as a mechanic. He’s got some great knowledge, some great advice, when it comes to buying cars. So, you ask him for advice, and he says, “Yeah, don’t buy this one. It looks a bit dodgy. (It) looks a bit sketchy. I wouldn’t get it. Just keep looking and you’ll find something better.”. The next week, this guy pops over to your house in that very car. So, he drives over. He comes over to your house in the car he told you not to buy, and that that’s because he bought it himself. So, it becomes clear he lied to you. He told you it was a bad buy, it was a bad idea, (it) looked dodgy, (it) looked sketchy, because he wanted to buy it himself. So, he went behind your back and bought the car. He stabbed me in the back when he lied to you and said it was a dodgy car in order for him to go and get this car. So, he was a backstabber. He is stabbed in the back and lied to you so he could buy the car instead of you getting it. What a dodgy mate.


Number three. Example number three. Alright, so we were talking about World War 1 earlier on, World War 1, the early 19th century. So, imagine its World War 1 or World War 2 and you are in an army where there are a lot of soldiers defecting to the other side. So, maybe these soldiers are defecting. Maybe they are even civilians. They’re defecting to the other side, the enemy, and they are becoming spies for this country, for this enemy, whoever they are. So, this happened a lot in World War 2, I’m sure, with armed soldiers going to Germany or going to Italy and defecting from England, and they would have done the same in reverse. They would have come from Germany and Italy going to England and the US, defecting to that side and becoming spies. If they did this, their original homeland or their home country would consider them backstabbers. They would consider these people who defected and became spies as having stabbed their homeland in the back. They’ve stabbed their country in the back. They’ve betrayed their country. They’ve gone behind their countries back and become spies for the enemy.

So, I hope that’s good, guys. I hope you understand this expression “To stab someone in the back”, meaning to betray someone.

So, let’s go through the listen and repeat exercise, guys. This is your chance to practice your Aussie English pronunciation, or just your English pronunciation in general. We’ll smash that out. We’ll do that. And then we’ll go through today’s Aussie English fact.

Alright, so listen and repeat after me guys and practice your pronunciation.

Listen & Repeat:


To stab

To stab someone

To stab someone in

To stab someone in the

To stab someone in the back x 5

I stabbed her in the back.

You stabbed her in the back.

He stabbed her in the back.

She stabbed her in the back.

We stabbed her in the back.

They stabbed her in the back.

It’s stabbed her in the back.

Brilliant job, guys. Brilliant job. Remember, if you want to practice the pronunciation for today’s listen and repeat exercise, jump over and enrol in the Aussie English Classroom, guys. We go through the connected speech and the pronunciation of the interesting aspects of English pronunciation in this exercise. It’s the best way to learn to sound like a native speaker. So, enrol in the Aussie English Classroom if you haven’t already.

Aussie Fact:

So, the Aussie English fact today, guys, I wanted to chat to you about ANZAC, about World War 1, where did the word ANZAC come from, and about a really cool little invention that an Aussie bloke came up with that ended up saving thousands of lives.

Okay. So, you might have heard the word ANZAC from time to time. ANZAC, A-N-Z-A-C, and you’ll you know this from the biscuits, ANZAC biscuits or ANZAC cookies. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

So, in 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an allied expedition that was set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula to open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies. So, this was in World War 1. The objective here was to capture Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which was an ally of Germany during the war, so the enemy of the Allied forces. The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on the 25th of April meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman army commanded by Mustafa Kemal, later known as “Atatürk”.

What had been planned as a bold strike to knock the Ottomans out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight long months. At the end of the year 1915, the Allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. The Allied deaths included more than 21,000 from the UK, an estimated 10,000 from France, 8,700 from Australia, and 2.700 from New Zealand, as well as 1,300 from British India.

So, news of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians and New Zealanders at home, and the 25th of April quickly became the day on which they remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.

So, though the Gallipoli campaign failed to achieve its military objectives of capturing Constantinople and knocking the Ottoman Empire out of the war, the actions of the Australian and New Zealand troops during this campaign bequeath an intangible but powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as “An ANZAC legend” became an important part of the national identity of both Australia and New Zealand.

So, I wanted to also talk about this awesome little invention that ended up saving lives and was invented by an Aussie. Alright so, the Drip Gun, the Drip Rifle, or also known as the Delayed-Fire Rifle. This was Australia’s proudest moment in this tragic and ill-fated Gallipoli campaign, and it was all due to a man named Lance Corporal Bill Scurry.

In his trench Bill Scurry had this thought, “It occurred to me that if we could leave our rifles firing, we might get away safely.”.

So, Scurry came up with this ingenious invention that would play a crucial part in the retreat of the allied forces from Gallipoli, and what military historians would later consider the best executed military maneuver in modern history.

So, his idea for the Delayed-Action Rifle or Drip Rifle was born, using ration tins and water. 

Set in fixed positions and with water gradually dripping from an upper to a lower can, which when sufficiently weighted dropped and pulled the rifle trigger the unmanned trenches kept up a sporadic fire day and night.

So, it was thought that leaving Gallipoli would be as dangerous as landing there had been eight months prior. If the Turks caught wind of this retreat as it was taking place, it was feared they would surge out of their trenches and attack the retreating army while it was vulnerable.

So, there was an elaborate pretense to make it appear that the allied forces weren’t retreating. Like, they were marching donkeys around that were fully equipped with gear. They were still playing cricket outside. There were stories of the final troops sitting in the trenches, whilst everyone was retreating, being given a hundred cigarettes each in order to light them all up and make it look like everyone was smoking in the trenches still. And they dressed up a bunch of fake mannequins, so sort of like soldiers, fake soldiers, in their costumes next to guns that were rigged up with these Delayed-Fire or Drip Rifles to make it seem like there were still soldiers in the trenches firing at the enemy.

So, on the last night of the Allied evacuation, Lance Corporal Bill Scurry’s creation, this Delayed-Fire Rifle, Drip Rifle, was set into action as hundreds of these Drip Rifles were set up along the Allied trench lines and the water was poured into the ration tins used to set them off. The weights and drip rates were varied among these guns so that they would fire sporadically at different times and give the illusion that men were still in the trenches firing at the Turks.

There was only a thin pie crust of ANZACs in the forward trenches, and of course, when they would leave going down the valley it would be quite obvious that there was no firing and that the trenches would be empty. And so, there was concern that the Turks would surge forward. So, Bill’s rifle, Bill Scurry’s rifle, came into play here.

As the shots rang out from William Scurry’s Ghost Rifle Brigade the ANZACs with hessian sacks on their boots to muffle their exit retreated without raising the slightest suspicion.

In the morning, the Turks would have awoken to silence with no men, no voices, no guns firing, and would have been astonished to discover their enemy had vanished.

Scurry’s Drip Rifle ended up leading to the final 2,000 men of the full eighty thousand allied troops who had to retreat leaving this place without suffering a single casualty.

All claims estimated a loss of life of at least 30% in any evacuation because leaving would be as perilous as landing had been on the first ANZAC day. Nearly 750 members of the AIF died on the day of the landing, the first ANZAC day, another 8,000 died over the coming 8 months, but on the last day not one lost their life.

So, what an Aussie legend.

But this story was really touching, guys. I actually had ancestors in the First and the Second World War, and the trench story here at Gallipoli is actually really horrifying when you look it up. So, I definitely recommend watching the Gallipoli movie. Hundreds of Australians were killed in about 15 minutes when they were forced to go out of the trenches and charge the enemy without loaded guns, they had to just use bayonets, and they made no progress. They just got shot to death. They got mowed down by machine guns. It is… it’s truly one of the darkest points in Australian history. It’s incredibly sad. And ultimately it was all for nothing.

Anyway, go check out that movie, guys. I think you’ll enjoy it. And aside from that, guys, I wish you an amazing week and I’ll see you soon. Catch ya!


Just a quick reference here, guys. I decided to sprinkle in a few of those extra clips into the podcast after I’d already recorded it, and I saw them in a story by ABC News Australia on YouTube. So, there will be a link in the transcript today to that video. I recommend that you go check it out, and make sure that you watch ABC News Australia on YouTube. You’ll learn a lot of Australian English and you’ll also be kept up to date with all of the news Down Under.

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