For some time I have cringed every time I heard someone using the phrase “mano a mano” incorrectly. You often hear people using it mistakenly in a confrontational tone: “C’mon buddy let’s take this outside. It’s you and me, mano a mano.”
You see, the very first record I bought as a kid in third grade, Hall & Oate’s Private Eyes, had a song called “Mano a Mano”. It was the only song on the album that John Hall sang on, and the lyrics went something like “Mano a mano, hand to hand.” It had to do with world peace or something.
Something told me to place my faith in Hall & Oates rather than American colloquialisms on this one. I was right.
I discovered that Cecil Adams, the author of the Straight Dope series of books, maintains a web site, and had a topic on this issue. Cecil says that it’s understandable that people think the term has to do with confrontation, since “hand to hand”, the translation of the Spanish “mano a mano”, could be mistaken for “hand to hand combat”.
Anyway…just had to get that off my chest. Now back to goat herding.