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Turn about fair play

Posted by Smokey Stover on April 07, 2010 at 14:36

In Reply to: Turn about fair play posted by Brent Dillahunty on March 20, 2010 at 16:08:

: I grew up in Oklahoma. I always heard the phrase "turn about fair play" which in essence meant a person was giving another person their come uppance. Where and how did this saying originate?

Did you leave out an "is"? Where I come from (northeastern U.S.) the expression is "Turn about is fair play."

Plainly, the meaning is that whatever you may do to me, it's fair play for me to turn around and do to you. The words "turn about" and "turnabout" both have a long history in the language. "Fair play" also has a fairly long history, since it was used by Shakespeare. But the first connection of "turn about" with "fair play" that I could find is from 1833. See the Oxford English Dictionary s.v. turn, n.:

"1833 T. HOOK Widow & Marquess vii, Turn-about is all fair play."

The people who settled Oklahoma were all from someplace else, at least those who spoke English. So it's no surprise that the expression, "Turn about is fair play," is well-known across the U.S. and Canada, and has been for a long time. I can't speak British, so I'll let those people speak for themselves.