Posted by Pamela on April 07, 2007
In Reply to: Grasp the mettle/nettle posted by Victoria S Dennis on April 06, 2007
: : Is the phrase grasp the mettle or grasp the nettle?
: It's "grasp the nettle". The point is that if you just brush a nettle leaf tentatively it will sting you, whereas if you grip it firmly it won't. (This is true of the European nettle - I have tried it. I don't know about American varieties). Therefore, to "grasp the nettle" means to take bold, decisive action to deal with a difficulty.
When my brother and I were much younger we went into spasms of laughter when we heard an adult say "Well, he who grasps the nettle deserves the prick". We repeated it at every opportunity stressing the word "prick" while maintaining that it was a perfectly polite thing to say. Pamela