Stick/stand to your guns

Posted by ESC on November 20, 2001

In Reply to: Sticking to his guns posted by R. Berg on November 20, 2001

: : Does the phrase "he's sticking to his guns" usually imply that the individual referred to has made a moral commitment, or simply that he is stubborn, has dug in his heels, and is possibly desperate? Thanks. -Patty

: To my ear it has the former connotation. Gun-sticking is the work of heroes, not villains.

I vote heroes. From the archives:

STICK TO YOUR GUNS/STAND TO YOUR GUNS - It's a military term. The Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman. (Random House, New York, 1996) states: "Stick to your guns - hold to your convictions and rights. The proverb has been traced back to the 'Life of Samuel Johnson' by James Bobswell (1740-95). It was first attested in the United States in 'Seven Keys to Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers (1884-1933)." From the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997): the term may be military in origin and lists a mention of the term "as late as 1839, in a popular novel called 'Ten Thousand a Year' the words put in the mouth of a civilian named Mr. Titmouse."

"Fighting Words: From War, Rebellion, and Other Combative Capers" by Christine Ammer (NTC Publishing Group, Chicago, 1989) has the most detailed explanation, ".Less in doubt than managing to hit a target was a gunner's obligation to stay at his post, whence the British term 'stand to one's guns' (in America, 'stick to one's guns'), meaning to persist and not give way. James Boswell, Samuel Johnson's biographer, writes in 1769, 'Mrs. Thrale stood to her gun with great courage in defense of amorous ditties.' A more perplexing use of this phrase occurred in a 1909 account about the staunchly pacifist Society of Friends: 'The Quakers stood to their guns, and without any resort to brute force, finally won.'"