English Teacher Article New English Idioms, Slang and Swearing References

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8 Comments

Grasping the Nettle

Shouldn't this be Grasping the Mettle?

Google gives 21,300 for 'grasp the nettle' and 136 for 'grasp the mettle' (19th July 2005)

that doesn't make it correct, i agree it should be mettle

Check in a dictionary- the Cambridge dictionary of idioms give 'grasp the nettle', but does not give 'grasp the mettle'.
Onelook, which searches hundreds of dictionaries gives no entry for 'mettle'.

Nettles are plants with fine hairs on their leaves that sting you if you just brush up against them, but do not sting if you grasp them tight and boldly. So the expression means to be bold and not afraid, or to get on with something unpleasant, without hesitation.

However, 'mettle' means one's ability to cope with difficult situations, so we have 'to show one's mettle', 'be on one's mettle', 'to put someone on their mettle'

To 'grasp the mettle' is actually acceptable, though not grammatically accurate.

Interesting to see this. I always thought that it was grasping the mettle.

Also is an old wives tale that grasping nettles boldly means that they don't sting! Of course they still do! LOL

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