Stiff upper lip

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the idiom. For the AC/DC album, see Stiff Upper Lip. For other uses, see Stiff upper lip (disambiguation).

One who has a stiff upper lip displays fortitude in the face of adversity, or exercises great self-restraint in the expression of emotion.[1] The phrase is most commonly heard as part of the idiom "keep a stiff upper lip", and has traditionally been used to describe an attribute of British people, who are sometimes perceived by other cultures as being unemotional.[1] A sign of weakness is trembling of the upper lip, hence the saying keep a stiff upper lip. When a person's upper lip begins to tremble, it is one of the first signs that the person is scared or shaken by experiencing deep emotion.[2]

It's perhaps surprising "that a phrase so strongly associated with the UK should have originated in America." One of the earliest known references to the phrase was in the Massachusetts Spy, June 1815: "I kept a stiff upper lip, and bought [a] license to sell my goods." [3]

Poems that feature a memorable evocation of Victorian cold-bloodedness and a stiff upper lip include Rudyard Kipling's "If—" and W. E. Henley's "Invictus".[4] The phrase became symbolic of the British people, and particularly of those who were products of the English public school system during the Victorian era. Such schools aimed to instill a code of discipline and devotion to duty in their students through competitive sports, corporal punishments and cold showers.[4]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Keep a stiff upper lip Retrieved 20 February 2011
  2. "Stiff upper lip". World Wide Words. 2006-08-19. Retrieved 2013-02-04. 
  3.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Spartans and Stoics - Stiff Upper Lip - Icons of England Retrieved 20 February 2011

External links