Date: Tue, 13 Jan 1998 21:16:38 -0500

From: Gregory {Greg} Downing downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]IS2.NYU.EDU

Subject: Re: "level the playing field"

At 08:01 PM 1/13/98 -0500, you (Gerald Cohen gcohen[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UMR.EDU ) wrote:

I recently received a query about the expression "to level the playing

field." In what way is a playing field leveled? What is the origin of this

unusual expression? Is it older than the past decade or so?

Hmmm, "to level" also means to survey some piece of ground in order to make

sure it is flat or level. Perhaps (???) if one found early uses of this

phrase they might mean "to ensure the field is level so that play is fair"

rather than "to make the field level." However, the phrase is commonly used

in current political discourse with the idea of actively making something

level. -- After all, where would a politician be if s/he said "Elect me, I

want to measure something" rather than "Elect me, I'm going to act to make

things fair."

For "to level" = "to survey for flatness," see OED2 level v. meaning 5, and

also levelling vbl. n. meanings 2 and 3. But there is no "level...

playing(-)field" anywhere in OED2.

Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]