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The meaning and origin of the expression: Don't let the bastards grind you down

Don't let the bastards grind you down


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Don't let the bastards grind you down'?

The meaning of this proverbial saying is self evident.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Don't let the bastards grind you down'?

Often given in the cod Latin version - 'nil carborundum illegitimi'. It was in wide circulation during the Second World War at which time General "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell used it as his motto.

Don't let the bastards grind you downIt is possible that whoever coined the phrase utilised a play on words involving the 'bastard file'. This form of file had been in use since the 17th century and was referred to in Joseph Moxon's Mechanick Exercises, 1677:

"The Bastard-tooth'd file is to take out of your work, the deep cuts ... the Rough-file made; the Fine-tooth'd file is to take out the cuts ... the Bastard-file made."

See other 'Don't...' proverbs:

Don't cast your pearls before swine

Don't change horses in midstream

Don't count your chickens before they are hatched

Don't get mad, get even

Don't cut off your nose to spite your face

Don't keep a dog and bark yourself

Don't let the cat out of the bag

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth

Don't put the cart before the horse

Don't shut the stable door after the horse has bolted

Don't throw good money after bad

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater

Don't try to teach your Grandma to suck eggs

Don't upset the apple-cart

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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