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Re: Bite the Bullet

Posted by David FG on January 27, 2011 at 09:56

In Reply to: Re: Bite the Bullet posted by James Briggs on January 26, 2011 at 17:57:

: : : It was my understanding that the phrase "bite the bullet" originated from the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

: : : The problem arose with the introduction of the Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle; because the sepoy (Indian soldiers controlled by the English), were composed of a mixture of Hindu and Muslim soldiers.

: : : To load the new rifle, the sepoys had to bite the cartridge open. It was believed that the paper cartridges that were standard issue with the rifle were greased with lard (pork fat) which was regarded as unclean by Muslims, or tallow (beef fat), regarded as anathema to Hindus.

: : : When the ammunition was reordered, the sepoy received a number of ammunition crates, but were unsure as to the nature of the grease coating the cartridge.

: : : Therefore, they were forced to "bite the bullet" to find out.

: : I think there is some confusion between the events you describe (which I have always been led to believe were one of the immediate causes of the Indian Mutiny) and pre-anaesthetic surgical procedures in which patients were given something to bite on in the hope it would distract them from the pain and go some way to stop them screaming.

: : Certainly the later fits better with the meaning of 'bite the bullet' which is to accept unpleasantness.

: : DFG

: Here's what the Phrases archive says at http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/bite-the-bullet.html

From that (which I should have read first) it seems that my belief might not be correct.

Still, it won't be the first time, and I doubt it will be the last.

DFG