catch (one) flat-footed(redirected from catch them flat-footed)
catch (one) flat-footed
To startle one; to come upon one unawares or unprepared. Usually used in the past tense. The security guard caught the thieves flat-footed. That essay question in the exam caught me completely flat-footed.
See also: catch
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
Caught unprepared, taken by surprise, as in The reporter's question caught the President flat-footed. This usage comes from one or another sport in which a player should be on his or her toes, ready to act. [c. 1900]
See also: caught
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
catch someone flat-footedtake someone by surprise or at a disadvantage. informal
The opposite of flat-footed in this metaphorical sense is on your toes (see toe).
1998 Field Farming and forestry were both caught flat-footed when fashion changed.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
flat-footed, to be caught/catch
To surprise/be surprised; to be caught unprepared. This antonym to being on one’s toes is believed by some to come from baseball terminology (it was so defined in the linguistics journal American Speech in 1912). However, other authorities believe it comes from horse-racing, where it is said of a horse whose jockey is unprepared to start a race.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer