mano a mano » mano-on-mano

Classification: English – cross-language

Spotted in the wild:

  • And get ready for some fireworks between two of the most scintillating rookies in the NBA next week because Cleveland and Chicago face-off twice, meaning we get to watch Dajuan Wagner and Jay “Don’t Call Me Jason” Williams go mano-on-mano. (CBS SportsLine, Nov. 30, 2002)
  • “Print this,” Chief Warner said. “The retiring fire chief, who is a senior citizen, is hereby challenging the younger police chief to a nine-hole match at the course of his choice, mano-on-mano,” with the police/fire trophy on the line. (East Bay (RI) Newspapers, Oct. 16, 2003)
  • Surely Cheney considered the Rocky option before using the F-word to tell Sen. Pat Leahy what the VEEP thought of the Vermonter’s constant criticisms. I do not claim to be an expert on the F-word or its usage. Still, I would have say that Flipping the bird would have been a truly bush-league gesture in a small group of senators and one Frazzled vice president. This was mano-on-mano. It required more than symbolism. (Augusta Free Press, June 29, 2004)
  • I spoke to Mike D’Antoni as he just came out here, the Suns head coach — he said, “We are playing mano on mano.” (ESPN sideline reporter Jim Gray during Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference Finals, May 28, 2005)
  • “Look man we talk bout this later, mano on mano. You dig?” Larry offered, hoping to quell the tension. (The Basketball Team #4 by Parker/Paladin, 1995)

Larry Horn on the American Dialect Society listserv (link) and Arnold Zwicky on the Language Log (link) have already discussed how _mano a mano_ has been reinterpreted to mean ‘man to man’ or ‘man on man,’ rather than the original Spanish meaning of ‘hand to hand.’ The form _mano-on-mano_ turns this covert eggcorn into an overt one.

| link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2005/05/30 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by David Romano , 2005/06/24 at 1:16 am

    I’m back at my parents’ home, and they watch Fox News. The O’Reilly Factor is now on, and I just saw the the subtitle “MANO Y MANO” for one of the topics. I think, however, he said “mano a mano”, so it’s probably just the tech help. Google count for “mano y mano” is 7030. One site shows that someone thinks “mano y mano” means “man to man”:here.

  2. 2

    Commentary by Ben Zimmer , 2005/06/24 at 2:33 am

    Thanks, I meant to mention _mano y mano_. Larry Horn discusses that variant in the ADS-L post linked above.

  3. 3

    Commentary by Chris Waigl , 2005/11/04 at 10:21 am

    The search engine hits leading to this entry suggest that some people consider “mano” or something similar as an _acronym_ for “man on man”.

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