Ropes

Fought back to the ropes. Fought to the bitter end. A pugilistic phrase.

“It is a battle that must be fought game, and right back to the ropes.” —Boldrewood: Robbery Under Arms, chap. xxxiii.

Ropes

Tricks, artifices. A term in horse-racing. To rope a horse is to pull it in or restrain its speed, to prevent its winning a race. When a boxer or any other athlete loses for the purpose, he is accused of roping. “To know the ropes” is to be up to all the dodges of the sporting world. Of course, the ropes mean the reins.

“I am no longer the verdant country squire, the natural prey of swindlers, blacklegs, and sharks. No, sir, I `know the ropes,' and these gentry would find me but sorry sport.” —Truth: Queer Story, September 3rd, 1885.

Ropes

She is on her high ropes. In a distant and haughty temper. The allusion is to a rope-dancer, who looks down on the spectators. The French say, Etre monte sur ses grands chevaux (to be on your high horse).

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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