phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at


Posted by Helpful Harry on February 12, 2000

In Reply to: Square... posted by ESC on February 12, 2000

: : : : : Fair and (even or balanced).
: : : : : OK. I understand what fair means. But square?
: : : : : Why does square mean balanced (ie: square meal)
: : : : : Is it because there are four basic food groups-- hence, four corners of a square. What if there were only three basic food groups -would it be "Fair and Triangle"
: : : : : P.S. Is this the same square as the 1950's cliche for nerd?

: : : : Anything to do with a Masonic Connection perhaps? e.g. 'On the Square' 'On the Level etc..

: : : : Ade

: : : I suspect that it relates to "we're all square" after paying a debt, i.e., that nobody owes anybody anything. The deal is closed, it's fair to both sides, with no remaining obligations. Why "square?" Perhaps it relates to a carpenter's idea of perfection: "true, plumb, and square."

: : I think in originates from the same source as a 'Square Meal': this expression grew out of the British Naval custom of serving meals on square wooden plates way back before the good old USA was the good old USA. I'll see if I can find an authoritative reference.

: 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 "

In 'Listening to Easter Island' by Henry Williams neither 'square meal', 'square deal', 'square fight' or 'square gait' are mentioned: I find this disturbing.

I now propose to widen my search to include those countries where English has been in use for a long time and see what I can turn up.