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I've known the saying

Be there or be square!

for a long time, but never really understood - why "square"? Where does that come from? Why not

Be there or be rectangular!

:-)

closed as off-topic by Edwin Ashworth, MetaEd, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, user49727, Rory Alsop Nov 11 '13 at 19:27

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  • Yes, why not 'rectangular', though perhaps in a different kind of sentence. – Kris Nov 9 '13 at 10:20
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    square (adj.) c.1300, "containing four equal sides and right angles," from square (n.). Meaning "honest, fair," is first attested 1560s; that of "straight, direct" is from 1804. Sense of "old-fashioned" is 1944, U.S. jazz slang, said to be from shape of a conductor's hand gestures in a regular four-beat rhythm. (Square-toes meant nearly the same thing in 1771, from a style of shoes then fallen from fashion.) Squaresville is attested from 1956. Online Etymology Dictionary, hence general reference. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 9 '13 at 10:46
  • @EdwinAshworth What about "a square plus b square"? – Kris Nov 9 '13 at 11:15
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    Because 'rectangular' doesn't rhyme with 'there'? – StoneyB Nov 9 '13 at 11:17
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    @Kris That's a squared, participle – StoneyB Nov 9 '13 at 11:18
8

square: conventional, boring.
(slang) A socially conventional person; typically associated with the 1950s
Why do you always wear a tie? Don't be such a square!

be there or be square:

(idiomatic, US, UK, humorous) Used to encourage someone to go somewhere.
There's a huge party on Saturday night; be there or be square.

  • Incidentally, in carpenter's and mason's lingo, to be square is to be rectangular -- go figure! – Kris Nov 9 '13 at 10:19
  • 'Square' in that sense is extremely dated now. It went out of fashion in about 1960. – WS2 Nov 9 '13 at 19:19
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    It is an important word in Freemasonry. 'Are you on the square' is, I'm informed, a coded inquiry as to whether the other party is a freemason. – WS2 Nov 9 '13 at 19:23
  • @WS anything by way of 'further reading'? – Kris Nov 10 '13 at 7:08
  • You could look at this for starters: freemasonry.bcy.ca/fiction/vernacular.html – WS2 Nov 10 '13 at 9:26

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