首页  | 专栏作家

Fair and square? 光明正大

中国日报网 2021-05-11 13:59


Reader question:

Please explain “fair and square”, as in, Biden won the election fair and square.

My comments:

This means that US President Joe Biden won the election last November fairly and squarely.

In other words, he was fair, fair as in fair play – he did not cheat.

In other words, he was square, square as in, I’ll be square with you – I’ll tell you everything upfront. In other words, Biden was honest. He didn’t do anything under the table, so to speak.

So he won, fair and square.

“Fair” and “square” means the same thing, and so don’t we sound redundant using both words together?

Fair enough. “Fair” and “square” do mean the same thing, but together they rhyme and that is why people like to use them together as a tandem.

Any other examples where similar sounding words are used together?

How about teeny-weeny (tiny)?

Or artsy-craftsy (artistic but pretentious)?

Or willy-nilly (willingly or not)


By the way, fair and square as a phrase has been in the English language since 1600s, according to idioms.online.

Okay, here are media examples of “fair and square”:

1. President Donald Trump, perhaps unsurprisingly, has alleged fraud in the Nov. 3 presidential election, without offering what anyone would consider real evidence, other than the fact that votes for his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, keep turning up in states where Trump initially led in the count.

The president has already announced that he intends to take the election to the Supreme Court, despite the fact that at the time of his statement, millions of votes in numerous states were still to be counted.

More coverage of Election 2020: Biden pulls ahead in Georgia, while Trump edge in Pennsylvania continues to narrow

Yet Trump’s fraud claims could be part of a psychological strategy, deftly executed by a master manipulator. If so, the president may be paving the way to persuading large numbers of Americans to reject the legitimacy of his defeat.

Psychological warfare

A scientific study conducted the day before and the morning of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, probing attitude changes in 1,000 U.S. voting-age adults, found that exposure to conspiratorial rhetoric about election interference produced a profound psychological effect. In particular, it led to significantly heightened negative emotions (anxiety and anger), and also undermined support for democratic institutions.

The study, recently published in the academic journal Research & Politics, found that those exposed to conspiracy theories regarding election-rigging were less willing to accept the results of an election, and became less inclined to concede the outcome when the result threatened their partisan goals.

Its authors, Bethany Albertson and Kimberly Guiler of the University of Texas at Austin, argue that vote-rigging allegations strike at the very foundations of democracy. For example, they may render the public doubtful as to whether nonviolent transfers of national authority should follow from a rigged vote.

Moreover, the study contends that political conspiracy theories may have ominous, extensive, and long-lasting consequences, such as reducing political participation, trust in government, confidence in elections, and faith in democracy.

Vote-rigging stories immediately after an election also can profoundly affect voters’ mental state. Besides becoming angrier and more anxious, voters in the study also reacted with increased sadness and disgust, and both Democrats and Republicans reported feeling less enthusiastic and less hopeful.

The authors suggest that the deep emotional and psychological effects they uncovered might also reflect the fact that people were on edge on Election Day, in a way that made both groups of partisans receptive to conspiratorial rhetoric. They conclude that Americans are vulnerable to being affected significantly by election-rigging allegations.

Trump has a feel for his supporters’ feelings

Throughout his presidency and the two election campaigns he has now waged, Trump has time and again demonstrated a better feel for his electorate’s mental state than the intelligentsia and chattering classes have. The latter groups might dismiss Trump’s fraud allegations as merely the childish reactions of a sore loser, but there is a psychological method to his seemingly mad claims.

Another recent study published in Political Research Quarterly examined why so many Americans are prone to believe that electoral fraud exists. The study’s authors, led by political scientists Jack Edelson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Joseph Uscinski of the University of Miami, suggested that more deeply embedded conspiratorial thinking may be to blame.

They point to a strong link between feelings of powerlessness and conspiracy paranoia. Supporters of the losing side in an election are therefore more likely to suspect scams. Republicans appear especially prone to believing that people are casting votes they should not, whereas Democrats are more concerned about being disenfranchised.

After Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s defeat in the 2012 presidential election, the authors note, 49% of Republicans believed that a Democratic activist group had stolen the election for President Barack Obama (only 6% of Democrats believed this). Likewise, following the 2000 presidential election, 31% of Democrats believed that George W. Bush had stolen the presidency (only 3% of Republicans agreed). And 30% of Democrats stated that they did not consider Bush a “legitimate president.”

But the authors argue that some measures aimed at combating perceptions of vote-rigging in the United States, such as stricter voter-identification laws upheld by the Supreme Court, could actually make things worse. Tightening voter-ID requirements leads to yet more conspiracy theories of election-rigging through vote suppression.

Finally, the authors cite a previous study of letters to the editor of the New York Times from 1890 to 2010, which reveals that disgruntled losers call nearly every presidential election into question. Trump’s claim of fraud in the 2020 election has taken this practice to a new and potentially dangerous level, with unpredictable psychological and political consequences.

Losing is catastrophic

Narcissists, convinced of their superiority, can never accept losing in any contest. The threat to their ego is too catastrophic. In their eyes, no one can ever beat them fair and square.

Accusations of cheating thus make perfect psychological sense. It protects the ego from the threat that losing implies. But followers may not appreciate a leader’s psychological vulnerability. Supporters and leaders can then forge a bond in their denial of an emotionally distressing result.

- Why Trump’s false claims about election fraud resonate so strongly with his supporters, MarketWatch.com, November 6, 2020.

2. The NBA Finals have been done for a few weeks now, but those involved are still eager to talk about them. Most recently, Miami Heat president Pat Riley weighed in on the series, which saw his team fall in six games to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.

During an interview on Friday, Riley dished on a number of topics, including his desire to “stay the course” after such an impressive playoff run. In terms of the Finals specifically, he lamented the fact that Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo went down with injuries in Game 1, which he believes affected the outcome of the series. Via the Miami Herald:

I would like to see what it would be like with everybody whole. We’ll get our chance again. The Lakers have the greatest player in the game today in LeBron [James] and Anthony Davis.

They beat us fair and squarely. But there will be always be that asterisk; if we had Bam and Goran 100 percent — Goran was our leading scorer [entering the Finals] — it might have gone to a seventh game.”

First of all, doing the whole “yeah they beat us fair and square” thing, then immediately claiming within the same sentence that there should also be an asterisk is just incredible. Bravo on that one.

Jokes aside, Riley does have something of a point. The Lakers still had to take care of business, but it would have been a different series if the Heat were healthy the whole way. There’s no doubt about that. Miami was able to push the Lakers to six games with Dragic essentially missing the entire series, and Bam missing half of it. That's not to say the Heat would have necessarily won if those guys hadn't gotten hurt, but things would have been more competitive than they already were.

Of course, the Heat also benefitted the other way in terms of injuries in the first three rounds of the playoffs. The Indiana Pacers were without Domantas Sabonis and Jeremy Lamb in the first round, the Milwaukee Bucks lost Giannis Antetokounmpo for the back end of their second-round matchup and the Boston Celtics didn’t have Gordon Hayward for most of the Eastern Conference finals.

All told, this is why the talk of asterisks for injuries doesn’t hold up. No one is completely healthy by the playoffs, and every team is going to catch a break along the way. If you start tallying up every single piece of luck each team got along the way, all of a sudden no one would be deserving of the title.

- Pat Riley says LeBron and the Lakers beat Heat 'fair and squarely' but ‘there will always be that asterisk’, CBSSports.com, October 25, 2020.

3. Pokemon Blue was the first game I ever beat, and you know what else? I beat it fair and square. I didn’t need any cheats, I didn’t need any help, and I didn’t need to give my lunch money to the kid in the year above who claimed to have the - fictional, it later turned out - solution on how to move the truck in Vermillion City and get Mew. But as quick as the game was to reward me with sweet, sweet serotonin for my victory, it was just as swift in providing a harsh lesson about the cost of cheating.

First, the glory. I had trained my team hard throughout the game, being sentimental enough to keep some favourite early game Pokemon and ruthless enough to cut some loose when better ‘mons emerged. I swept Lorelei aside simply enough, despite her irritating penchant for having Dewgong use Rest, then I seem to remember either Agatha or Bruno getting the better of me. So, I trained some more, went back and dispatched all three with ease, then narrowly defeated Lance and that damn Dragonite.

Then, of course, I faced Gary. I called him Gary rather than say, Dickface, because I was an incredibly dull child. Anyway, being unaware of this fifth challenger, I had not healed up and was duly crushed. So, for the final time, I tried again, beating all four of the Elite Four in one fell swoop, and this time I ousted Gary and ascended to glory.


Pokemon Blue taught me the joys of victory in a video game, along with the cost of cheating. I’ll always remember that Pokemon Blue was the first game I ever beat, even if I can’t remember the Pokemon who helped me do it.

- Pokemon Blue Was The First Game To Teach Me The Cost Of Cheating, by Stacey Henley, TheGamer.com, February 27, 2021.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


Internet troll 网络巨魔


What is the “in thing”? 流行事物


Pulling the trigger? 做出最终决定


Thrown for a loop? 目瞪口呆


Common thread? 共同点

中国日报网 英语点津微信
中国日报网 双语小程序