ENGLISCH/767: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (127) Stick to your... (SB)


127. To stick to your guns

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

I sometimes hear the expression "stick to your guns". What does it mean? Guns are weapons. They can be either small things that you can carry in a pocket or big canons. To wear guns as a symbol of male chauvinism and open aggression is out of fashion even in the Wild West. But being a woman I find even less reason why I should stick to "my" guns, despite the fact that I do not possess any kind of artillery to defend myself or to stick myself to. To stick to your guns, therefore, seems not a very wise and useful recommendation. There is probably some metaphorical meaning behind all this, so I would be very grateful, if you could give me a hint.

Kind regards
Yours sincerely

Martha Schönenberger (from Austria)


Dear Mrs Schönenberger

The idiom "to stick to your guns" is a very good example for how the meaning of a phrase originally used in a specific context can change in everyday conversation. The word to "stick" in the original military context means to "stay" with, not to be frightened and go away. So, if a commander tells his men to "stick to their guns", it means literally: Don't run away. Don't be frightened. But when we use this phrase in colloquial English we're not talking about fighting battles or at least not literally. We mean metaphorically "defend your position" or "insist on what you want". If, for example, there is something you don't understand, "stick to your guns". Don't mind people that might be laughing at you. Keep on asking unless your problem is sufficiently solved and don't let anyone get the better of you.

Very glad that you "stuck to your guns",

Mrs Gobbledygook

20 February 2008