Often a phrase that becomes a common saying is derived from that which pertains to something in our daily life. The phrase: “play second fiddle” was borrowed from a practice of placing those who played the same type of instrumental music according to preferred order of the director of an orchestra or of a musical band. The violin, commonly called a fiddle, had more than one fiddle player. The “First chair” violinist took the lead and was considered the principle player of that instrument. To play second fiddle was to provide more of a supportive roll for the first chair violinist.
The expression: “play second fiddle,” in common usage, means to be in a subordinate or supportive roll. Many are not satisfied in being a “second banana” to anyone. They want to be first in everything. If I am going down a highway with a 70 mile speed limit and have my cruise speed set at that speed many cars still go sailing past me. It is probably an indication that some people have never grown up and still phantom themselves as speed demons. Years ago our son Paul was driving southwest in the lower part of Missouri. Another driver passed him and then slowed down after doing so. It was very irritating unto Paul for that to be happening. The driver pulled this same stunt two or three times. Evidently he was trying to entice my son to a race. Well Paul figured how he might eliminate that situation. At the Missouri/Oklahoma state line there was a toll gate. Paul went through before the other gentlemen did and then slowed down so the other driver could catch up with him. Just as the other driver drove up close to Paul’s car Paul speeded up and so did the other fellow! The other car sped past Paul’s and Paul slowed down. Just up the road a little ways an Oklahoma Highway trooper had the other driver pulled over. Paul blew his horn and waved at the speed demon as he passed by.
The term “second banana” means the same thing as to “play second fiddle.” It was an expression originally used of a comedian who plays a secondary role, especially as a straight man in a vaudeville or burlesque theatre. Some who played in a supportive role became disenchanted because they did not feel they got any credit.