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A square meal & on the fiddle

Posted by James Briggs on May 15, 2003

In Reply to: A square meal posted by Gary on May 14, 2003

: : this term I belive actually comes from medevil castles, where meals were served on square bits of bread, thus letting the gravey and the sorts soak in, and if the person eating the meal felt generous he/she would through the bread out of the window to the peasants below, who would then eat the bread as there "square meal"

: I can't find any evidence to support that. In William Brohaugh's 'English Through the Ages', the phrase is cited as having entered the language in 1840 - far too late for the mediaeval theory. I think the correct derivation is at // of the saying 'square meal'

I agree with gary. However, I think 'on the fiddle' has a slightly wider origin, as follows:

Fiddle: If someone is on the fiddle then they are reckoned to be doing something illegal. Why fiddle? There's no reference that I can find, but a naval anecdote told by guides on HMS Victory offers a partial explanation. To this day dining tables on ships are edged with a rim, either fixed or hinged, which stops plates falling off during rough weather. These rims are called "fiddles" (why I can't find out). Similar rims were present on the square wooden plates which gave the origin of "a square meal". The story goes that some sailors would get their plates unfairly so full that the food was "on the fiddle" - hence today's saying.