play both ends against the middle

(redirected from play one off against another)

play both ends against the middle

To manipulate two opposing sides of an argument, conflict, competition, etc., against one another for one's own benefit or advantage. My father and my uncle are engaged in a bitter business rivalry. If I can play both ends against the middle, I might be able to secure some sizeable investments for my own company. Janet really dislikes Mary and wants to date her boyfriend Mike, so she's been playing both ends against the middle in order to get them to break up.
See also: both, end, middle, play

play both ends (against the middle)

Fig. [for one] to scheme in a way that pits two sides against each other (for one's own gain). I told my brother that Mary doesn't like him. Then I told Mary that my brother doesn't like her. They broke up, so now I can have the car this weekend. I succeeded in playing both ends against the middle. If you try to play both ends, you're likely to get in trouble with both sides.
See also: both, end, play

play both ends against the middle

Also, play one off against another. Gain an advantage by setting opposing parties or interests against one another. For example, Some children are adept at manipulating their parents, playing both ends against the middle , or Aunt Jane had a nasty habit of playing the twins off against each other. The first term may come from a cheating practice used in faro. Minute strips were cut off certain cards, so that one could tell where they lay in the deck. When the cards were cut convex or concave, it was called "both ends against the middle." The figurative use of the term dates from the first half of the 1900s. The variant originated in the mid-1600s as play against one another, with off being added in the late 1800s.
See also: both, end, middle, play

play both ends against the middle

AMERICAN
If someone plays both ends against the middle, they pretend to support or favour two opposing people or ideas in order to gain an advantage, or to get all the benefits that they can from a situation. The growing distance between her parents allowed the young Walker to play both ends against the middle. Note: You usually use this expression to show that you disapprove of this behaviour.
See also: both, end, middle, play

play both ends against the middle

To set opposing parties or interests against one another so as to advance one's own goals.
See also: both, end, middle, play