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settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists
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I was in a (non-cycling) work team meeting yesterday and mindlessly described needing to "soft-pedal" an item I was working on. My cyclist colleague piped in to say "um, Dave, I think you might need to give a Cylist-to-English translation for the rest of the group on what you mean."

I contend the term is known by the general population. Cyclist colleague thinks it's esoteric and exclusive to people who ride bikes. (softly, I guess)

Who's right?
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [davetallo] [ In reply to ]
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Interesting.... I would think "soft pedal" outside of cycling might mean an subtle approach to selling something - the antithesis of "hard sell" by an aggressive vendor. Folks who don't ride bikes might not be able to grasp the same feeling we do.

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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [davetallo] [ In reply to ]
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I think most people who have at least a basic understanding of how a bicycle functions will be able to grasp what you're saying even if it isn't part of their daily vocabulary. No need to be a Cat 3+ rider. You're right, carry on.

Kiwami NA Racing Team
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [ianpeace] [ In reply to ]
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ianpeace wrote:
Interesting.... I would think "soft pedal" outside of cycling might mean an subtle approach to selling something - the antithesis of "hard sell" by an aggressive vendor. Folks who don't ride bikes might not be able to grasp the same feeling we do.

Ian

Maybe soft peddle vs pedal...

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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [davetallo] [ In reply to ]
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musical: to play with restraint
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [davetallo] [ In reply to ]
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davetallo wrote:
I was in a (non-cycling) work team meeting yesterday and mindlessly described needing to "soft-pedal" an item I was working on. My cyclist colleague piped in to say "um, Dave, I think you might need to give a Cylist-to-English translation for the rest of the group on what you mean."

I contend the term is known by the general population. Cyclist colleague thinks it's esoteric and exclusive to people who ride bikes. (softly, I guess)

Who's right?

Post the same question on a motoring forum, that should answer the question.
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [davetallo] [ In reply to ]
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davetallo wrote:
I was in a (non-cycling) work team meeting yesterday and mindlessly described needing to "soft-pedal" an item I was working on. My cyclist colleague piped in to say "um, Dave, I think you might need to give a Cylist-to-English translation for the rest of the group on what you mean."

I contend the term is known by the general population. Cyclist colleague thinks it's esoteric and exclusive to people who ride bikes. (softly, I guess)

Who's right?

The phrase originally comes from music, you use the "soft pedal" on a piano to lower the volume and mute the tone:

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The soft pedal (or una corda pedal, Italian for 'one string') is one of the standard pedals on a piano, generally placed leftmost among the pedals. On a grand piano this pedal shifts the whole action (including the keyboard) slightly to the right, so that the hammers which normally strike all three of the strings for a note strike only two of them. This softens the note and also modifies its tone quality. Tone quality is also affected by forcing the remaining two strings being struck to make contact with a part of the hammer felt which is not often hit (due to the whole action being shifted); this results in a duller sound, as opposed to the bright sound which is usually produced (due to the felt being hardened from regular use)

<snip>

When used as a verb, 'soft-pedal' refers to the toning down, damping, muting or obscuring of a thing; it means to proceed in a less forceful, circumspect or subdued manner.

I was well aware of the term long before I ever heard it used in a cycling context, but then I was already studying music back in grade school...

"I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 10, and I don't know why!"
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [davetallo] [ In reply to ]
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If you soft-pedal something, you deliberately reduce the amount of activity or pressure that you have been using to get something done or seen.
This could refer to a lot of things outside of the cycling world as well.
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [davetallo] [ In reply to ]
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It's because people confuse "pedal" ("to make a bike go forward") with its homophone "peddle", ("to sell" )

Soft-sell is "soft-peddle"

Ride easily is "soft-pedal"
Last edited by: JoeO: Dec 3, 20 10:22
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [JoeO] [ In reply to ]
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Not really, it's just an idiom that comes from music (as others have pointed out), but for cycling its meaning is literal.

So its an interesting/accidental case in which a niche community has an instance in which an idiom that isn't derived from or descriptive of cycling makes literal sense in cycling.

For the OP the cyclist colleague was technically wrong, whether or not that has any bearing on whether or not the audience needed it explained is an audience question (probably not).
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [dand] [ In reply to ]
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Actually it really is. Like so many other things, if enough people make the same mistake enough times, it becomes "correct". It's the same reason why "snuck" is now in the dictionary
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [JoeO] [ In reply to ]
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I think almost everyone understands what is meant when someone says you have to back pedal. so I am not sure it would be that different for soft pedal.
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [davetallo] [ In reply to ]
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Everyone understands back-pedal, so I would imagine the same applies?
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [toddstr] [ In reply to ]
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toddstr wrote:
musical: to play with restraint

"Rattenuto" I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that very few people would have any idea what the word means, or that it even exists. I took 12 years of piano and played trombone and upright bass in college and still had to look up the spelling.

"...the street finds its own uses for things"
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [Eroc43] [ In reply to ]
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I doubt its a coincidence that it's incorrectly used regarding selling when there just happens to be an identical-sounding word about selling. It's like people saying "jive" when they mean "jibe". Give it a few years and that will be correct too.

But who knows? Maybe it's a bit of both.
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [JoeO] [ In reply to ]
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Sorry I was replying to the general post not your comment in particular.
But I agree with you. I think Irregardless was put in last year as well.
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [JoeO] [ In reply to ]
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JoeO wrote:
I doubt its a coincidence that it's incorrectly used regarding selling when there just happens to be an identical-sounding word about selling. It's like people saying "jive" when they mean "jibe". Give it a few years and that will be correct too.

But who knows? Maybe it's a bit of both.

"fulsome." For years, I've loved when people have used it incorrectly, probably because its literal meaning is the complete opposite of its intended meaning. But I agree, its accepted definition will eventually drift to what people mean when they say it.
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [davetallo] [ In reply to ]
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I had not heard the term "soft pedal" until I was racing in my second-ever crit (age 31) when the announcer accused us the entire cat 4/5 mens race of soft pedaling. I knew what it meant because I was the sprinter at the front of the peloton doing just that, though I had no prior experience with it.

If someone said it in a business meeting it would have been a head-scratcher for a second but I would have concluded it meant something to the effect of "take it easy."

Dr. Alex Harrison, USAT-1, USATF-3, CSCS ----- PhD in Sport Physiology, Author, Product Designer, Coach, Consultant
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Last edited by: DrAlexHarrison: Dec 3, 20 14:42
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [davetallo] [ In reply to ]
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It's a generally known term.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/soft-pedal


soft-pedal verb

soft-ped·​al | \ ˈsȯf(t)-ˈpe-dᵊl \
soft-pedaled; soft-pedaling; soft-pedals
Definition of soft-pedal (Entry 1 of 2)
transitive verb


1: PLAY DOWN, DE-EMPHASIZE
soft-pedal the issue
2: to use the soft pedal in playing

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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [JoeO] [ In reply to ]
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For sure, I get language change - but the origin of the term is from music, not a homophonic switch from peddle to pedal (the seemingly logical association between the sense of the term as soft sell and as soft-peddle is way some make sense of the meaning already perceived).

Of course it’s the use and intent that governs, and one can think it is “soft peddle” and still mean the same thing (and in speech it doesn’t matter which is said).
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [davetallo] [ In reply to ]
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I'd vote for the colleague being right. Professional language needs to be inclusive, not exclusive, in my opinion, and sports terminology is exclusive.
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [A_Hooligan] [ In reply to ]
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A_Hooligan wrote:
Everyone understands back-pedal, so I would imagine the same applies?

This is an interesting one... back-pedal, I believe, was derived from the way you used to brake on a bike; I wonder when that phrase was transformed from applying brake to mean going backwards.

As for OP's question, I would say the way he used the phrase soft pedal - meaning to slow down - is indeed a cyclist's literally use of that phrase, as such, it would be more obviously understood by cyclists.
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [davetallo] [ In reply to ]
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At least you didn't use the term "Glass Cranking". That would have thrown them for a loop.
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [dalava] [ In reply to ]
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dalava wrote:
A_Hooligan wrote:
Everyone understands back-pedal, so I would imagine the same applies?


This is an interesting one... back-pedal, I believe, was derived from the way you used to brake on a bike; I wonder when that phrase was transformed from applying brake to mean going backwards.

At the time that phrase originated (late 1800s), back-pedaling would not only slow you down, but on many bikes actually would cause you to go backwards...

"I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 10, and I don't know why!"
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Re: settle a disagreement: "soft pedal" is a widely-understood term, and not just used by cyclists [davetallo] [ In reply to ]
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davetallo wrote:
"fulsome." For years, I've loved when people have used it incorrectly, probably because its literal meaning is the complete opposite of its intended meaning. But I agree, its accepted definition will eventually drift to what people mean when they say it.

Like the prison? And the Blues, thereof?

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