Posted by ESC on August 17, 2000
In Reply to: Mexican Stand Off posted by Serdar Rifat on August 17, 2000
: There is nothing derogatory about this expression.
: It simply means a stand off where the first to act will lose. In the film 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly', we see a perfect example, where the three gun fighters stand in a triangle facing each other. Each one reluctant to draw first, because the first to draw runs the risk of being shoot by the guy he does not aim for; hence the first to act will lose (or in this case, die!)
MEXICAN STANDOFF -- A couple of references I checked say we get "Mexican standoff" from the same regional chauvinism that gives us "Dutch treat," etc. Everything south of the border was considered inferior to U.S. stuff. Apparently, having a gunfight was considered a point of pride, so a gunfight where no shots were fired - a Mexican standoff - was inferior and thereby "Mexican." The "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977) calls Dutch treat, etc., examples of "derogatory epithets aimed at neighboring countries." They also list phrases pertaining to Mexico. ".The expression 'Mexican athlete' is used to describe an athlete who goes out for the team but doesn't make it. A 'Mexican promotion' is one in which an employee gets a fancy new title -- but no increase in pay. And a 'Mexican breakfast' consists of a cigarette and a glass of water. So a 'Mexican standoff' is a situation from which nothing at all can be expected." The "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997) says Mexican standoff is "A stalemate, a confrontation that neither side can win. Originally an American cowboy expression describing a gun battle with no clear winner, the words date back to the mid-19th century. It is often used to describe a pitching duel in baseball today."