phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at


Posted by Lewis on February 09, 2004

In Reply to: "Squared-away" posted by ESC on February 07, 2004

: : Does anyone know origin of military term "squared-away"?? Thanks, Guy Andrews

: Here's what one reference says:

: SQUARED AWAY - "from the nautical meaning of having changed a sailing ship's positions to that of the prevailing wind, with the yards turned at right angles to the deck." From "Listening to America" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982).

: Other square terms:

: 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.' Bu 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).

: SQUARE, ON THE (ON THE LEVEL) -- "In all sincerity, honesty, or truth; on the up and up; the real McCoy. Both of these expressions were taken from the ritual of Freemasonry and both are of legendary antiquity. In the rites of the lodges, however, the level, an instrument used by builders to determine a common plane, is actually a symbol of equality. The square, an instrument of equally great precision for determining accurately an angle of ninety degrees, the fourth part of a circle, is a symbol of morality, truth, and honesty. 'The Encyclopedia of Freemasonry' (1916 edition) relates: 'In the year 1830, the architect, in rebuilding a very ancient bridge called Baal Bridge over Limerick, in Ireland, found under the foundation-stone an old brass square, much eaten away, containing on the two surfaces the following inscription (dated 1517)(V carved as U):
: -- From "Heavens to Betsy" by Charles Earle Funk (Harper & Row, New York, 1955)

I heard the Freemason origin some time ago. When something is 'squared' it means that it has been sorted out. the usage is often of something needing permission or a punishment avoided.

with the police and judiciary being notorious for having masons amongst their ranks, a problem, an indiscretion and offence being 'squared away' is a reference to calling on a fellow freemason to fix the problem unofficially by exerting influence. It is one of the pernicious aspects of the cult when misused.

the set-square, as mentioned is one of the 2 major symbols of freemasonry - it appears with calipers (?) to make their generic badge.