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Origin: Mid-20th Century, American and British English – There was a Latin American dance craze in the U.S. in the 1940’s and 50’s. Dances like the Samba, Mambo and Tango were very popular. Dancing Schools taught them regularly, in fact they still do. The popularity extended to Hollywood and many couple were seen dancing them, especially The Tango, which originated in Argentina. In 1952 a popular song was written using this expression and it caught on very quickly, perhaps because of its easy alliteration. While the song was about the dance, the title morphed quickly into a metaphor. President Reagan famously used it to describe what the Russians were not willing to do when it came to progress in arms reduction.

Usage: Formal and Informal spoken and written American and British English.

Idiomatic Meaning: Both parties involved in a situation or argument are responsible for it.

 Literal Meaning: In order to perform the dance called the tango, (at least) two people are required.

 Why is this funny? In the photo we see three people doing the tango and the words. “It takes three to tango”. This is a joke paraphrasing our idiom. Looking at the three dancers we immediately realize they are disproving the idiom. Although they are graceful we all know that full participation is necessary for people to accomplish something and that it really does “take two to tango.”.

Sample sentence: We didn’t get a divorce because we both realized that ”it takes two to tango.”