Stiff upper lip
A person who is said to have a stiff upper lip displays fortitude and stoicism in the face of adversity, or exercises great self-restraint in the expression of emotion. 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 in remaining resolute and unemotional when faced with adversity. 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.
The following events in British history have often been cited as exemplifying the "stiff upper lip".
- In 1912, during the Terra Nova Expedition, Captain Lawrence Oates, aware that his own ill health was compromising his three companions' chances of survival, calmly leaving the tent and choosing certain death
- Sir Francis Drake finishing a game of bowls before embarking on the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588
- In 1912, Captain Edward Smith directing the evacuation of the RMS Titanic before going down with the ship
- During the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the Earl of Uxbridge calmly assessing of his injuries (he had lost his leg) to the Duke of Wellington after being hit by a cannonball
The ideal of the stiff upper lip is traced back to Ancient Greece – to the Spartans, whose cult of discipline and self-sacrifice was a source of inspiration to the English public school system; and to the Stoics. Stoic ideas were adopted by the Romans, particularly the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who wrote, "If you are distressed by any external thing, it is not this thing which disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now." The concept reached England in the 1590s, and featured in the plays of William Shakespeare; his tragic hero Hamlet says, "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so". Poems that feature a memorable evocation of Victorian stoicism and a stiff upper lip include Rudyard Kipling's "If—" and W. E. Henley's "Invictus". The phrase became symbolic of the British people, and particularly of those who were students of the English public school system during the Victorian era. Such schools were heavily influenced by stoicism, and aimed to instill a code of discipline and devotion to duty in their pupils through 'character-building' competitive sports (as immortalised in the poem "Vitai Lampada"), corporal punishments and cold showers.
- "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"
- "Hakuna Matata"
- Coping (psychology)
- Ian Hislop's Stiff Upper Lip - An Emotional History of Britain
- Keep Calm and Carry On
- Minimisation (psychology)
- Psychological resilience
- "Everything is Awesome"
- Sabr (Islamic term)
- Gaman (term), Japanese endurance
- Sisu, Finnish persistence
- Social sharing of emotions
- Trooper (colloquial American equivalent)
- Keep a stiff upper lip Phrases.org.uk. Retrieved 20 February 2011
- "The myth of the stiff upper lip", BBC
- "Stiff upper lip". World Wide Words. 19 August 2006. Retrieved 4 February 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Ian Hislop's Stiff Upper Lip". Metro. 2 October 2016.
- "Spartans and Stoics – Stiff Upper Lip – Icons of England" Archived 12 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 20 February 2011
- Thomas Dixon (2015). Weeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199676057.
|Look up stiff upper lip in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- The British Stiff Upper Lip at Sterlingtimes Virtual Scrapbook of British Nostalgia
- "Decorum is dead! Long live the outburst!" Salon article on the topic