phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: Bite the bullet

Posted by ESC on June 02, 2011 at 00:52

In Reply to: Bite the bullet posted by Charlie Dixon on April 12, 2011 at 09:05:

: The book "The Life of Billy Dixon" was his own account of his life on the western frontier. He scouted for the army, hunted buffalo, freighted, etc. In one place in a discussion with anther man about a tight spot he was in fighting indians the other fellow asks, "Didn't you have yer bites". And the writer went on to explain that men would carry a crimped cartridge filled with cyinide to "bite" for a quick death rather than be captured by indians and likely tortured to death. This makes me wonder about the possible origin of the phrase, "To bite the bullet".

"Brace yourself for an unpleasant experience; decide to get on with a difficult task. Although one can find other explanations, it seems most plausible that the term originated in battlefield surgery before the days of anesthesia. A surgeon about to operate on a wounded soldier would urge him to bite on a bullet of soft lead to distract him from the pain; at least it would minimize his ability to scream and thus divert the surgeon. Rudyard Kipling reflected the broader meaning in 'The Light that Failed' (1890): "Bite on the bullet, old man, and don't let them think you're afraid.'" From "The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).