"keep your nose clean"

Posted by R. Berg on September 10, 2003

In Reply to: What is the etymology of "keep your nose clean"? posted by djones on September 10, 2003

: I am interested in knowing the timeframe and first usage of this phrase ... keep your nose clean.

: thank you ...

: darlene jones

From Eric Partridge, Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day:

"Orig. proletarian and not unknown among criminals, . . . also an army catchphrase, with the special sense, 'Avoid strong drink -- it gets you into trouble': late C19-20. But, by c. 1920, the army nuance had become simply 'Keep out of trouble!' --often, with an undertone of 'Mind your own business!'. . . . It is used also in the US, although not in the nuance 'Mind your own business'."