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
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.”
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