What Does Be There or Be Square Mean?

Be There or Be Square Meaning

Definition: If one does not attend a certain event, one is not “cool.”

The expression be there or be square means that if one declines to attend an event, one is considered “uncool.” It implies that the event will be exciting. Someone who doesn’t attend is boring.

Origin of Be There or Be Square

The idiomatic word square originated between WWII and the 1950s beatnik era. It refers to people who are boring or out of touch with current trends and attitudes.

Prior to this, square referred to one’s honest, good-natured personality, or to high-quality work. Perhaps it alluded to the perfectly symmetrical edges of a literal square, although this has not been confirmed. The meaning of square changed around the time jazz became popular. If someone were a square, one did not appreciate jazz music.

be there be squareThe etymology of the phrase be there or be square is unclear, although most sources claim it originated during the 1950s.

Examples of Be There or Be Square

Most English speakers use this expression in friendly banter. This means that one does not truly think less of someone because they do not attend a certain event. Rather, it reiterates that the event will be fun and exciting, and it implies that only people who do not like fun and exciting things would refrain from attending.

be there of be squaredIn this exchange, Tiffany has just invited her friend Tamara to her birthday party. She tells Tamara to be there or be square.

Tiffany: Are you going to come to my birthday party? It’s this Saturday.

Tamara: I don’t think I have any plans. I’ll try my best to make it. I’ll call you later this week and let you know for sure.

Tiffany: Okay! Be there or be square!

More Examples

Show your support, [be] there or be square and bring your mom too! Sunday, March 19, 2017 and get there early. – Chicago Tribune

Summary

The English expression be there or be square means that, if one does not attend an event, one is boring or “uncool.”