The phrase ‘Keep a stiff upper lip’

Maintain a stiff higher lip

What is the that means of the phrase ‘Maintain a stiff higher lip’?

To maintain a stiff higher lip is to stay resolute and unemotional within the face of adversity.

What is the origin of the phrase ‘Maintain a stiff higher lip’?

That is such a clichéd expression that it’s tough to think about doing the rest with a stiff higher lip other than holding it. If you happen to attempt to maintain your higher lip stiff your facial features will seem aloof and unsmiling, betraying little of any feeling you is perhaps experiencing. That manner is the supply of ‘hold a stiff higher lip’. The phrase is just like ‘chew the bullet’, ‘hold your chin up’, and (to the amusement of many Individuals) ‘hold you pecker up’. It has turn out to be symbolic of the British, and significantly of the merchandise of the English public faculty system in the course of the age of the British Empire. In these colleges the ‘play up and play the sport’ ethos was inculcated into the boys who went on to rule the Empire. That ‘do your obligation and present no emotion’ angle was expressed in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s The Cost of the Mild Brigade:

Theirs to not make reply,
Theirs to not motive why,
Theirs however to do and die:
Into the valley of Dying
Rode the 600.

In newer years the stiff higher lip has gone out of favour within the UK and British heroes have been capable of present extra emotion. Footballers now cry once they lose and troopers cry at comrades’ funerals, each of which might have been unthinkable earlier than WWII.

Keep a stiff upper lipSo, the place did the ‘stiff higher lip’ originate? In 1963, P. G. Wodehouse revealed a novel known as Stiff Higher Lip, Jeeves, and you’ll’t get rather more English than that.

Unusual then {that a} phrase so strongly related to the UK ought to have originated in America. The primary printed reference to it that I do know of is within the Massachusetts Spy, June 1815:

“I stored a stiff higher lip, and purchased [a] license to promote my items.”

That quotation does not explicitly seek advice from holding one’s feelings in verify, however a barely later one, from the Ohio newspaper The Huron Reflector, 1830, makes the that means unambiguous:

“I acknowledge I felt one way or the other queer concerning the bows; however I stored a stiff higher lip, and when my flip got here, and the Commodore of the Police axed [sic] me how I come to be in such firm… I felt a little bit higher.”

The expression might be present in a number of US references from the early 19th century and was commonplace there by 1844, which is the date of the earliest instance that I can discover from a British supply.

‘Maintain a stiff higher lip’ is among the many phrases in English which might be used to present recommendation. Different ‘hold’ expressions embody:

Maintain a large berth
Maintain it beneath your hat
Maintain schtum
Maintain the ball rolling
Sustain with the Joneses
Maintain your chin up
Maintain your arms clear
Maintain your nostril clear
Maintain your nostril to the grindstone
Maintain your pecker up
Maintain your powder dry


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