return to square 1 (maybe 1923)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 6 13:44:28 UTC 2009

Stephen Goranson said:
> Garson, the citation is confirmed in a paper copy, except that the title page
> has 1924, though the verso has "Copyright 1923 ... Set up and printed.
> Published October, 1923.". It's about a re-education movement test:
> page 81:
> "...for movement of a different type, I have used a series of squares one inch
> to the side arranged in a line as shown in figure 10. The patient sitting at a
> table is directed to point his finger at the first square and with successive
> backward and forward movements to point to each of the succeeding squares [p.
> 82] in the series of ten. After this has been accomplished, he is then to
> return to square 1 and to do the series over again and again, and to continue
> until the signal to stop has been given."
> Stephen

Excellent! I greatly appreciate your taking the time to check this
citation on paper Stephen.

The theory that "back to square one" comes from a children's game like
hopscotch seems to be supported by a different citation from the 1920s
that I found. The author William Albin Stecher wrote several books
about educational gymnastics, physical training, games, and dances for

"Games and Dances" by William A. Stecher was published in different
versions. The term "back to square 1" appears in the 1926 edition, but
it does not appear in the 1912 edition according to the Google Books
search engine. Unfortunately, the 1926 edition is blocked. It does not
even display snippets. The reference is supposedly on page 132. Once
again I am stuck, but I feel sheepish asking someone to verify this.

Google Books has a 2007 edition that may be a copy of an older edition
and it contains the phrase "back to square 1" twice. The phrase occurs
in a discussion of hopscotch that includes diagrams. This is the full

"After reaching the last square, a player, instead of winning the
game, must work his way back to Square 1."

Games and Dances by William A. Stecher,  READ BOOKS, 2007.

Garson O'Toole

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list