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A Roland for their Oliver

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on July 25, 2005

In Reply to: A Roland for their Oliver Posted by Bill Price on July 25, 2005

: "We gave them a Roland for their Oliver"; this phrase I've read a number of times and I believe it meant they gave a good fight for the one they received. Used like this; It was a short but hot engagement and we gave them a Roland for their Oliver". I'd like to know where this phrase came from and why.

Roland (known in Italian as Orlando) was one of the most famous paladins of mediaeval literature, one of the mythical knights of the emperor Charlemagne. His exploits feature in some of the most famous poems in early European literature, from the l1th-century "Song of Roland" to the 16th-century "Orlando Furioso". His best friend was called Oliver, and the legendary adventures they each had were so similar that it's hard to tell the stories about them apart. Eventually they met, incognito so that neither recognised the other, and fought for five days without being able to beat each other, until finally they broke each other's swords, and said "I yield" simultaneously. So "to give someone a Roland for his Oliver" is to produce an equal opponent. (VSD)