turnabout is fair play

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1755,[1] British/Irish.


turnabout is fair play

  1. It is allowable to retaliate against an enemy's dirty tricks by using the same ones against them.
    • 1755, Dudley Bradstreet, The Life and Uncommon Adventures of Captain Dudley Bradstreet, S. Powell, Dublin, p. 216:[1]
      My Endeavours were used to perplex their Thoughts and Judgments; I told them, that at next Wednesday’s Dinner I hoped we would be informed who were to rule the Roast, that hitherto honest Men were kept from shuffling the Cards, because they would cast Knaves out from the Company of Kings, but we would make them know, Turn about was fair Play, and that two and three made five, though many Words did not fill a Bushel.
    • 1795, Archibald MacLaren, The Scottish Volunteers[1], page 23:
      No, I won't, — I went to my bed last, — let my bed come to me now, turn about is fair play.
  2. Taking turns is morally right.
    • 1996, Doctor James White, ‎Peter Kent, The Best Sex of Your Life, page 214:
      A good way to get started on a little sexual assertiveness training is to agree to take turns being “dominant.” One evening the man takes ... Well, turnabout is fair play, and it's time for the woman to do the work, to try to please her man. . . and to take pleasure from him in any way she can.
    • 1998, Hugh Douglas Price, ‎Nelson W. Polsby, Explorations in the Evolution of Congress, page 92:
      For both mayor parties rotation in office came to embrace the doctrine of taking turns in the distribution of prizes. More than once in his quest for the Whig nomination to Congress Lincoln employed the slogan, “turnabout is fair play." By fair play he referred not to the Youngian antipower notions but to the context for the prize of office.
    • 2015, Richard Thomas, Disintegration: A Novel:
      Turnabout is fair play, right? We'll start it low and take turns, I'll tase you, and then you can tase me, and we'll see who the last man standing is.
    • 2018, Richard Dagger, Playing Fair: Political Obligation and the Problems of Punishment, page 47:
      Most of us, I suspect, first learn about fair play in the context of games. One of the first things we learn, even in such simple games as tag and hide-and-seek, is that “turnabout is fair play.”

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Yale Book of Quotations, Fred R. Shapiro, 2006, p. 621