Stiff upper lip
One who has a stiff upper lip displays fortitude in the face of adversity, or exercises great self-restraint
Self control
Self control is the ability to control one's emotions, behavior and desires in order to obtain some reward later. In psychology it is sometimes called self-regulation...

 in the expression of emotion
Emotion is a complex psychophysiological experience of an individual's state of mind as interacting with biochemical and environmental influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves "physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience." Emotion is associated with mood,...

. The phrase is most commonly heard as part of the idiom
Idiom is an expression, word, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is comprehended in regard to a common use of that expression that is separate from the literal meaning or definition of the words of which it is made...

 "keep a stiff upper lip", and has traditionally been used to describe an attribute of British people
Britishness is the state or quality of being British, or of embodying British characteristics, and is used to refer to that which binds and distinguishes the British people and forms the basis of their unity and identity, or else to explain expressions of British culture—such as habits, behaviours...

 (particularly upper-middle
Upper middle class
The upper middle class is a sociological concept referring to the social group constituted by higher-status members of the middle class. This is in contrast to the term "lower middle class", which is used for the group at the opposite end of the middle class stratum, and to the broader term "middle...

 and upper class
Upper class
In social science, the "upper class" is the group of people at the top of a social hierarchy. Members of an upper class may have great power over the allocation of resources and governmental policy in their area.- Historical meaning :...

), who are sometimes perceived by other cultures as being unemotional. Poems that feature a memorable evocation of Victorian stoicism
Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early . The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of "moral and intellectual perfection," would not suffer such emotions.Stoics were concerned...

 and a stiff upper lip include Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English poet, short-story writer, and novelist chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, tales and poems of British soldiers in India, and his tales for children. Kipling received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature...

's "If—
"If—" is a poem written in 1895 by British Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling. It was first published in the "Brother Square Toes" chapter of Rewards and Fairies, Kipling's 1910 collection of short stories and poems...

" and W. E. Henley
William Ernest Henley
William Ernest Henley was an English poet, critic and editor, best remembered for his 1875 poem "Invictus".-Life and career:...

's "Invictus
"Invictus" is a short Victorian poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley .- Background :At the age of 12, Henley contracted tuberculosis of the bone. A few years later, the disease progressed to his foot, and physicians announced that the only way to save his life was to amputate directly...

". 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
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

. The idiom seems however of American origin; its earliest known example is in a publication called the "Massachusetts Spy" for 14 June 1815: "I kept a stiff upper lip, and bought [a] license to sell my goods."

The origin of this phrase could date back to the time of [shanghaiing] sailors for the British Navy when corpses were required to be sewn up through their upper lip before being thrown overboard. Shanghaied sailors who could keep a stiff upper lip could thus escape and swim back to the shore.

External links

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