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.

About Will Chatham

Will Chatham is the Application Security Engineer at a cyber security research and development firm. Since Netscape 2.0, he has worked in a wide array of environments including non-profit, corporate, small business, and government. His varied background, from web developer to search engine optimizer to security professional, has helped him build a wide range of skills that help those with whom he works and teaches.
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  1. will,

    i believe i saw one of your goats on merrimon the other day. it looked like barney though i was not sure it was him. if it was, i hope he returned safely.

  2. about colloqualisms taken out of context, some people think that “I want an ice cream sandwich” literally means I want an ice cream sandwich. Cecil Adams says that that is false, and that it really means that you want two african american girlfriends

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