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Words phrases and idioms

YoungBites. Dated: 5/9/2017 10:18:11 AM


Back to square one

'Back to square one' is a classic of folk etymology. Although the origin is uncertain, no uncertainty lurks in the minds of those who are sure they know how, where and when it was derived. It ranks up there with 'the whole nine yards' and 'posh' as an expression that people 'know' the origin of, when in fact they don't. There are three widely reported suggestions as to the phrase's origin: BBC sports commentaries, board games like Snakes and Ladders and playground games like hopscotch. Let's examine them in turn. Early BBC radio commentaries did help listeners follow the progress of football and rugby games by notionally dividing the pitch into eight rectangles. Commentators described the play by saying which 'square' the ball was in. The Radio Times, the BBC's listings guide, referred to the practice in an issue from January 1927. No, It didn't originate in a football commentary. Right quote Recordings of early commentaries also exist, including the very first broadcast sports commentary of any kind - a rugby match, as it happens. That commentary, and many others that followed, referred listeners to the printed maps and a second commentator called out the numbers as the ball moved from square to square.

 

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