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Fair play and the minor English aristocracy

Posted by TheFallen on September 11, 2002

In Reply to: One for the chaps posted by Keswick on September 11, 2002

: Any ideas where "kick him in the Queensburys" meaning, one assumes, to kick a gentleman in his testicular region, originates from???

I've not heard this expression used, but I'd bet your assumption is exactly right. I can tell you that in the mid-1860's in the UK, the eighth Marquis of Queensberry was patron of the Amateur Athletics Club, which used to both hold and preside over amateur boxing matches. Another member of the AAC wrote a set of rules to apply to these amateur matches - they basically define the three minute round, the one minute break between rounds, the size of the ring, etc., far more than they are concerned with fair play. In fact from what I can find out, the only rules governing good sportsmanship involve not hitting a man when he's down, rather than the whole list of forbidden activities - no gouging, biting, punching below the belt, etc. - that I, and I expect many others, had presumed was there.

From the above, the phrase "Queensberry rules" became an expression, these days almost always used ironically, because it's presumed that nobody would be stupid enough in an impromptu fistfight to abide by such an honourable code. So in conclusion, to kick someone in the Queensberrys (-ies?) is a mocking allusion to these well-intentioned rules.