I'm interested in finding the origin of the phrase "get back on terms". Commentators in the Tour de France and other big bike races use it all the time. I understand it in context; its meaning is that someone has fallen behind and they need to catch up to someone in order to get back on terms. I've searched online and find others saying that's what it means, but they don't have the origin. It's also used in other sports, not only cycling.
Asking this on Mastodon brought me a good explanation of the meaning that matches my understanding, but still not point of origin, if that's findable. Maybe it's simply inherent in the meaning of "terms". The construction of the phrase feels like British English to me.
Explanation from my Mastodon source—all plausible and intuitive, no source cited:
Terms in this case is a synonym for footing or relationship, specifically to be "on terms" is to be on an equal footing, to have a relationship as equals. So in sport to be "on terms" with someone means to have an equal chance of winning in comparison to them.
Thus to be "back on terms" means you had fallen behind, but had worked your way back to being equal with them.
Likewise, to be "on speaking terms" means your relationship is close enough that you speak with each other, though you may not be equal in other ways. Historically, 'terms' relates to a boundary; in time, space, or other conditions.
So a school term is an amount of time bound to a set end.
While to be 'on terms' is to be meeting at a boundary point. Such as two nations or tribes meeting at their border to discuss things on equal footing (both in their own area, with neither having the 'home ground advantage'). Or two sports teams having equal points. Etcetera.