This is an Australian expression, 19th century in origin, which is now commonly used to describe any remote area, but which originally referred to the vast spaces of the interior of the country, the Great Outback.The back, reduced from back country, is the outlying territory beyond the settled regions.
This infamous phrase, meaning to go back to the ground rules, to 'traditional values', was first heard in politics in the 1950s.
It probably derived from the expression, used in mathematics and physics, to go back to first principles, with its implication that any calculation, however complicated, has its origin in just a few essential basic rules.
Back to basics was taken up by the British Conservative Party in 1993 as an all-embracing political slogan designed to promote family values. They do not sit in the limelight but they are the men who do the work.'The most usual explanation refers to the diagram of a football pitch divided into numbered squares, printed in Radio Times from 1927 until about 1940 to help listeners follow radio commentaries on matches.
John Major, the Prime Minister, launched this ill-fated phrase, albeit with the best of intentions, in a speech to the Conservative Party Conference in 1993: 'The message from this conference is clear and simple. The Conservative Party will lead the country back to these basics, right across the board: sound money, free trade, traditional teaching, respect for family and the law.' This expression was coined by Lord Beaverbrook, then British Minister for Aircraft Production, in a speech in honour of the 'unsung heroes' of the war effort, made on March 24, 1941: 'To whom must praise be given? The commentator referred to these squares when describing the progress of play, enabling the listener to visualise it more clearly.
While it may be true that commentators used the phrase 'back to square one', it would not have meant what it now means: soccer is a game of rapid movement and there is little sense of starting again after useless effort.
There is, however, an alternative origin in board games such as Snakes and Ladders in which certain throws of the dice do indeed take the players back to square one, wiping out the progress they have made.
This is the more likely origin of the phrase, though football commentators may have popularised it Refers to the board on which plans of buildings, etc. Aircraft designers during WWII used the phrase when a concept or even a whole design for a new machine proved unworkable and had to be started all over again. Because of their fierceness in defending their burrows against attack, captured badgers were formerly used in sport: a badger was placed in an artificial burrow, such as a kennel made out of a tub, and dogs were set on it in turn to see which could draw it out. To march out (with) bag and baggage was to march away without surrendering any equipment.
It now means 'entirely' though it is still normally used to express the completeness of a departure.
This has been explained as originating in the 13th century when the price and weight of bread were regulated and the penalties for giving short weight were heavy.
Bakers, it is said, used to add an extra loaf to every batch of twelve to make sure that they stayed on the right side of the law.
This explanation overlooks the problem that few people were ever likely to buy that sort of quantity.