Back To Square One

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Oh dear - you have done so much work and planning, only to find out that either you have done something wrong or someone else has told you that you've done something wrong and you have to give up. In short, you have to go back to the drawing board, you have to go back to square one, you have to start again.

The origin of this phrase is unusually actually rather sensible and probably the one that you thought of straight away, and that is to do with board games long before we all did everything on the computer.

In quite a few games there are penalties that take you back down the board and to the start, and when you do go right back to the start you have gone back to square one and are back where you started, and hence the origin of this phrase.

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