Mexican standoff

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The term Mexican standoff is most probably a term coined in the United States and is considered a pejorative by many, but not all people. We will examine the meaning of the term Mexican standoff, where it probably came from and its evolution, as well as some examples of its use in sentences.

A Mexican standoff is a confrontation in which the opponents are equally matched and neither one may win, in a Mexican standoff neither participant has an advantage. In its first iteration in the 1840s, the term Mexican standoff described the tendency of Mexican bandits to run away from a fair fight. Around the 1890s, Mexican standoff referred to a standoff that usually ended with no shots fired and no satisfactory resolution. With the advent of the Western novel and Western movies in the twentieth century, the term came to mean a situation in which three armed men are engaged in a stalemate, with each of the men training his gun on another so that all the men are in danger of being shot. Some people point to the original meaning of the term Mexican standoff to describe cowardly bandits as a symbol of racism, and consider the term Mexican standoff offensive. However, most people are unaware of these roots. The plural form is Mexican standoffs, note that the word Mexican is capitalized as it is a proper noun.


A “Mexican standoff” between the NBN and Telstra over who is responsible for internet issues has left customers feeling frustrated. (The Border Mail)

Julia Poliscanova, a spokeswoman for the green campaign group, Transport and Environment, said: “There is a Mexican standoff going on, with governments afraid to act against their own fraudulent carmakers for fear it will put their domestic industry at a competitive disadvantage.” (The Guardian)