Fair and square - Idiom of the Week
In today’s competitive sports environment, everyone has their own opinions on whether or not the victor won fair and square. I’m sure you would love for us to hash that out and analyze who really deserves to win the 2018 World Cup, but that’s not what we’re here for. (:
As defined in Linda and Roger Flavell’s book Dictionary of Idioms and Their Origins, “fair and square” is an idiom that means “in an honest manner” (page 116).
After months of hard work and practice, beating all odds, and never playing a game of the tournament on their home field, it was clear that my nephew’s team won the state championship fair and square.
This idiom has remained popular since the 16th century because of its tautological and rhythmic nature. A “square deal” and a “fair deal” are synonymous, thus repetitive.
Dictionary of Idioms and Their Origins says it well when it explains where this meaning of “square” came from: “Square in the sense of ‘honest’ probably alludes to a square’s perfectly equal angles and sides, the opposite of anything twisted or crooked” (page 116).