What does the expression “mano a mano” mean?

SHARE What does the expression “mano a mano” mean?

Dear Cecil: Ever heard the expression mono e mono? I thought it meant “one on one.” My brother and his wife vehemently argue that it’s spelled mano e mano and means “hand to hand.” I think I’m right, but then again I’m only going by what the villain said to James Bond in The Man With the Golden Gun. The bad guy challenged Bond to a duel “mono e mono, one-on-one.” Who’s right? My brother and his wife or me? Richard A. Galichon, Chicago

Cecil replies:

None of you, which is par for the course. But they’re closer than you, since all they did was misspell it. Mano a mano is Spanish for “hand to hand.” Since hand-to-hand combat typically pits two individuals against each other, the expression is often understood to, but doesn’t literally, mean one-on-one. My assistant, Little Ed, made a similar mistake. Having read about the testosterone-driven naming of Grand Teton mountain (look it up), he had for years a giddy idea of the meaning of tête-à -tête. Imagine his disappointment upon discovering it merely meant “head to head.”

Cecil Adams

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.