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  1. #1
    canadalynx is offline Member
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    Be on the square

    Hello.

    I would like to ask about the usage of 'to be on the square' as to mean ' honest'.
    I know we can use it for people. Can we use it for different entities such as a business, an affair, intention and so on?

    Some examples:

    1. The contract seems to be on the square.
    2. The business is on the square.
    3. Her report on the issue is on the square.
    4. Her intention to help him seems on the square.
    5. Your claim on the expenses is deemed on the square and straightforward.

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    probus's Avatar
    probus is offline Moderator
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    Re: Be on the square

    With the caveat that this meaning of on the square pertains to AmE only, I would freely use it to refer to things other than people, such as organizations, propositions, policies and so forth

  3. #3
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Be on the square

    I'd use it for people and businesses, but probably not for a contract.

  4. #4
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    Re: Be on the square

    I've never heard it and probably wouldn't understand what you meant.

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Be on the square

    On the square and on the level are idioms derived from Freemason symbols, both meaning honest or trustworthy. They're probably a bit dated. I don't know the details, but the square and compasses are the symbols of Masonry. I believe they meet on the level as equals. I have no idea whether it has anything to do with spirit levels and building. (Not a Mason)

  6. #6
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    Re: Be on the square

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    I don't know the details,
    I'd like to tell you, but don't fancy having my throat cut across, and my tongue torn out by its roots and buried in the rough sands of the sea at low water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in 24 hours.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 12-Apr-2021 at 15:48. Reason: Fixed font

  7. #7
    probus's Avatar
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    Re: Be on the square

    On the square was new to me but on the level is common in AmE. If indeed it is fading it has so far faded only a little. Here is a link to a charming song by John Prine that shows the typical use of on the level.

    https://youtu.be/Sn-TXN0b6Bg
    Last edited by probus; 12-Apr-2021 at 21:11. Reason: Typos

  8. #8
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    Re: Be on the square

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    I'd like to tell you, but don't fancy having my throat cut across, and my tongue torn out by its roots and buried in the rough sands of the sea at low water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in 24 hours.
    Because once the tongue is out, rough sand is far more irritating than fine sand? Also, if it's not a gibbous tidal moon, I can't take the threat seriously.
    Wear short sleeves! Support your right to bare arms!

  9. #9
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Be on the square

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    I'd like to tell you, but don't fancy having my throat cut across, and my tongue torn out by its roots and buried in the rough sands of the sea at low water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in 24 hours.
    You'd still have to roll your trousers up, I believe. And few want to see your shins.

  10. #10
    canadalynx is offline Member
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    Re: Be on the square

    Thank you for your responses.

    I have been informed that this idiom is a bit dated and I can use "be on the level" to convey the same meaning.

    I understand there are different sorts of idioms. Some can be regional, some are la mode, some have faded into obscurity and so on but I think all idioms are interesting.

    Have a good one.

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