Definitions

square meal

Square (slang)

Square used as slang may mean many things when referring to a person, or it may refer to a cigarette.

The term "square", in referring to a person, originally meant someone who was honest, traditional, and loyal. An agreement that is equitable on all sides is a "square deal". The evolution of American culture transformed the term from a compliment to an insult to an obsolete term.

In the parlance of jazz, a square was a person who failed to appreciate the medium, hence (more broadly) someone who was out of date or out of touch. Such was the opprobrium attached to "squareness" among jazz lovers that musician Thelonious Monk adopted the middle name "Sphere". The term, with its broader meaning, has persisted and has permeated mainstream culture, as exemplified in Huey Lewis's 1986 hit Hip to be square. In ultimate self-reference, this song was later used by Sesame Street to illustrate the geometrical meaning of "square".

In the counterculture movements that started in the 1940s and took momentum in the 1960s a "square" referred to someone who clung to repressive, traditional, stereotypical, one-sided, or "in the box" ways of thinking. The term was used by hipsters in the 40s, beatniks in the 50s, hippies in the 60s, yippies in the 70s, and other individuals who took part in the movements which emerged to contest the more conservative national, political, religious, philosophical, musical and social trends. It was in this context that Sly and the Family Stone's trumpet player Cynthia Robinson yelled out in the hit "Dance to the Music": "All the squares go home!"

In modern usage it can be used to describe a person who leads a lawful existence, particularly in regard to employment.

The term found its way into various parts of popular culture. Perhaps the most obvious recurring reference today would be this line from "Jailhouse Rock", a song most famously sung by Elvis Presley:

The warden said hey buddy don't you be no square
If you can't find a partner use a wooden chair

One of the earliest records with the usage of the term can be found in the 1946 recording by Harry Gibson "What's his Story?," which includes the stanza:

At the gate stands a sinning fool
Shouting "Lordy Lordy"
Saint Peter said "You square,
Your place is way down there"
And the square said, "What's his story?"

Or an earlier song by the same artist, from 1944, called "Stop That Dancing Up There," which includes:

The people downstairs
Say I'm an aweful square
When I shout, "Stop that dancing up there."

Positive connotations

Square can mean good and honest, a sense preserved in the phrases "fair and square", "a square deal" and "a square meal"; or upstanding, as in "squaring up" (to an antagonist). As a symbol of rectitude, the square, or set-square, is one of the principal allegorical symbols in Freemasonry.

The term was used in the American Cub Scout Promise until 1971.

The chorus of the George M. Cohan song "Mary's a Grand Old Name" concludes with these lines:

And there is something there / That sounds so square / It's a grand old name.

L7

L7 is also a derivative term for square. The square shape is made by putting together an "L" made with the left thumb and index finger and a "7" made with the right thumb and index finger.

Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs included this line in their biggest hit "Wooly Bully":

''Let’s not be L7, come and learn to dance.

See also

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