From NPR:

One problem we would have here is to calculate the damage because I believe the damage is incalculable and it's going to ripple into the future, because it will cost us convention business and people will be a little gun shy about coming back in here if they think this could happen again.

I have two questions:

  1. What's the meaning of gun shy?
  2. come back in here is a little weird for me. I know a phrase is come here, so I think if I want to stress the orientation back, I can only add a word back before here, just as come back here (but still a little weird for me). So why does he add the word in before here? Can you give me more examples?
  • Sounds to me like it's talking about a convention center venue at which something bad happened, and that people might not want to have their convention at this site in the future because the same thing might happen again. This means the convention center would lose that business.
    – Jim
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 5:13
  • @Jim The story tells that there is a leak in a chemical storage tank which fouled the Elk River right above a drinking water, and that made the residents there not have enough clear water. So the damage is incalculable and people want to get away from there. Maybe the word convention business confused you, and it also confused me. I take it as some commercial term. I didn't find a proper definition of the phrase :(
    – Searene
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 6:52
  • 2
    He's saying the spill will result in reduced business coming in because people will be hesitant to hold conventions (trade shows, expos, summits, etc.) there in the future. Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 22:49
  • Including a link to the story, instead of just a one-sentence excerpt, can greatly help others understand the underlying context.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 1:08
  • @TylerJamesYoung Very nice interpretation. Thank you :)
    – Searene
    Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 6:33

2 Answers 2


You can find a definition of gun-shy over at The Free Dictionary:

  1. Afraid of loud noise, such as that of gunfire.

  2. Extremely distrustful or wary

"Back" indicates that "come here" is to return to "here," and "in" implies that "here" is an enclosed location, or one with discrete borders (e.g., a town). Here's another example (of bad parenting) that I just made up:

[A parent to a child who just went outside]: If you don't come back in here now, you can stay out!

  • 1
    Hi Nick, thanks for the answer! While linking to outside resources is helpful, it's also important to include all important information in the actual text of the answer. I'm going to edit this one for you now, so please just keep this in mind for the future. Thanks! :)
    – WendiKidd
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 22:31
  • 1
    I think in this context, the "in" doesn't refer to an enclosed area, but "back here into town."
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 1:04
  • Edited to accommodate that. Didn't mean to exclude it in the first place, but I agree the clarification is helpful! Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 1:07
  • 1
    Taking my bad-parenting skills to the max, I might say "If you don't come back in here right now, you can just sleep out in the yard all night!"
    – Hellion
    Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 17:42

"Gun shy" means wary, like the dictionary says, with the shade of meaning that the person is overcautious. For instance, a person gets out of a bad romantic relationship, and they are gun-shy about getting into a new one, with the implication that their wariness is unreasonably heightened by their previous bad experience.

So the interviewee is trying to imply that it's wrong of people to be hesitant to do business in that town, that their worries are not reasonable. Which of course he would say that and think that.

  • The interpretation of the "gun shy" is very useful to help me understand the expression. Thank you. :)
    – Searene
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 2:00

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