It would be very interesting if duelling was still allowed. There are a few people I’d like to stand toe to toe with, take ten paces, then test my ability to shoot with an old style flint duelling pistol.
What’s this got to do with anything?
It’s where our word of the day comes in. If I lose my nerve, or I know my opposite number is a better shot, my second would have to stand in my place.
It’s, if anything, an older use of the word.
Of course, it mainly means, on one hand, coming second in a race or a competition, not exactly the place you really want to be, simply because no one really remembers who came second.
It plays host to a plethora of statements using second as part of the saying, such as,
Second rate, second hand, even if it had more than one owner, second best.
But then there’s a few more that mean something else like a second look, mainly because you didn’t trust your eyes, second nature, it’s been drilled into you (a rather painful idiom if it truly was) and second sight, though this might not necessarily be a verifiable attribute.
And, of lesser note, I’m not necessarily sure I’m second to none.
On the other hand, and pardon the pun using this definition, it also describes a length of time, very short in fact, and it takes 60 of them to make a minute.
Hang on, it’ll only take a second. Yes, we often use the word in vain. I doubt there is any one of us who could do anything useful in a second.