There was the following passage in the New York Time’s (October 1st) article that came under the title, “Donald Trump’s pathetic fraternity”::

He (Newt Gingrich) piped up to say that Machado deserved to be shamed for her weight gain. His reasoning went something like this: Live by the sash, die by the sash. It’s amazing how much physical license men will give themselves while giving women none. It’s amazing how oblivious they are to the paradox.

Readers English Japanese Dictionary published Kenkyusha defines “sash” simply as a decoration shoulder belt (officially worn by army officers and noblemen / women)

OALD at hand gives the definition of “sash” as a noun meaning; 1.a long strip of fabric worn around the waste or over shoulder. 2.a pair of windows.

But I’m unable to relate a Venezuelan-born American actress with any of these definitions and the above-quoted phrase, “live by the sash, die by the sash.”

What does “live by the sash, die by the sash” mean? Is it a well-established idiom, or just a Gingrich's play of word?

  • 5
    I've no idea what it means but it is obviously a play on words of the saying "Live by the sword, die by the sword."
    – Mick
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 0:58
  • 7
    I believe beauty-contest contestants traditionally wear sashes bearing their titles, e.g., "Miss Venezuela." Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 0:58
  • 4
    If you get praise and fame for being a beauty queen, be prepared for criticism and noteriety for subverting the expectations of a beauty queen. As Mick says, this is a snowclone of the original metaphor about violence, and as Brian notes, "sash" is metonymy for "beauty queen".
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 1:14

1 Answer 1


I had thought that this proverb had its origin in the New Testament.

Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. (Matthew 26:52)

However, this Wikipedia article about the paraphrased proverb traces it back to

Aeschylus's Agamemnon, line 1558, "By the sword you did your work, and by the sword you die."

The proverb "He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword" has this interpretation.

While a common modern interpretation means "those who live by violence will die by violence", suggesting nonviolence or pacifism as an alternative, it is also used for a variety of situations which contain an element of poetic justice and karma. (op. cit.)

Here is a picture of Ms. Machado wearing her Miss Universe Sash. (I agree with Dan and Brian: "sash" is metonymy for "beauty queen.")

Machado with her Miss Universe sash

Gingrich has substituted "sash" for "sword" in the proverb in a situation which contains "an element of poetic justice." If she figuratively lives (becomes famous) by her beauty and figure then she could figuratively die (gain infamy) when the beauty and figure lose their allure.

  • The Times was the one that did the substitution on Gingrich's behalf.
    – deadrat
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 5:56

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