Posted by ESC (USA) on July 06, 2004
In Reply to: Welcome back, James........... posted by Ward on July 06, 2004
: : : When was it decided, why and by whom, that 'square' meant conservative? ie. Years ago if someone was square, they were maintstream, conservative, etc. And of course, then there's the saying, 'think outside the square', suggesting that if you want to do something different, break the mould, etc. you have to think outside a square.
: : My 'The American Thesaurus of Slang', circa 1956, certainly gives the conservative version and likens it to 'trite' or 'corny'.
: Welcome back, James. You were missed.
Ditto. Welcome back!
From the archives:
SQUARE - "Colonists were calling city blocks laid out on the grid plan 'squares' by the 1790s ( the term is often associated with Philadelphia but did not originate there). By 1832 men used 'square' approvingly to refer to the natural, even gait of a good horse in such expressions as a 'square-gaited' horse or a 'square trotter.' By 1836 'square' meant full or complete, as a 'square meal,' though people didn't talk about 'three squares a day' until 1882. By the 1850s 'to square' meant to put a matter straight and later to pay a debt.
As early as 1804, however, square had come to mean fair, honest, as in 'square fight,' with 'square talk' coming in 1860, 'square deal' appearing as a card player's term in the 1880s, and square shooter in 1920. However, it was Theodore Roosevelt who popularized the term 'square deal' in its generally sense. The term (square) was spread by bop and cool musicians in the late 1940s and early 50s, and then by beatniks and hippies, who used it pejoratively to refer to old-fashioned people and conformists." From "Listening to America" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982).