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In the article of Time (May 5th) titled “Obama aspire to do Big Things,” I noticed Press Secretary Jay Curney used the word, ‘grit and resolve’ followed by “(and) not in a John Wayne way, but in a commitment and focus,” when explaining Bin Laden death in a press interview held on May 2nd.

I guess ‘grit and resolve” simply means “resolute” from the component words. But I’m curious to know whether they (grit and resolve) are often put together like this as an idiom. Can you teach me?

The Press Secretary’s remark containing ‘a grit and resolve’ is as follows:

“Obama has discussed this thematic connection with his aides in the West Wing, explaining that the death of bin Laden signals something far greater than a national security accomplishment. “He views this as a demonstration of this country’s capacity to overcome skeptics and do things that people had decided were no longer doable,” explained Press Secretary Jay Carney, in an interview Monday afternoon. “There is sort of a grit and resolve. And not in a John Wayne way, but in a commitment and focus.”

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2 Answers 2

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"Grit and resolve" is a familiar enough phrase in English. Here is a Google NGram showing that its popularity was greatest in the late 19th century, had a resurgence during the First World War, and has enjoyed something of a renaissance since the Reagan years.

enter image description here

It refers to maintaining a steely, firm-willed determination. It has a martial feel to it, as well as a faintly archaic tang.

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@Robusto-san. Thank you very much for quick answer. It’s very interesting to see that the phrase once seemed to have been dead twice resurrected after Reagan’s era and being widely used. It seems the words reflect faithfully the zeitgeist. –  Yoichi Oishi May 8 '11 at 2:32
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Those first two spikes are the result of a single reference, a letter from a Civil War general to Dorothea Dix which appeared in a biography of Dix first published in 1890 and again in 1918. –  Callithumpian May 8 '11 at 4:10
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Whoa. That Ngrams graph does not support what you claim. The phrase is not widely used. It was never popular. Note the scale. The 1890 "peak" is, as Callithumpian points out, actually a single use of the phrase, published in two editions of one book. If you click the search links, you will find that from 1892 to 1990, Google Books has a total of 40 hits. Many of those are not even this phrase, since one of "grit" or "resolve" is being used as a verb. Google Web Search has only 1680 results for "grit and resolve". –  Mechanical snail Jun 7 '12 at 8:09
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@Mechanicalsnail: Agreed. I answered this question before I realized that NGrams were not the language Excalibur people claimed, and that they could be used poorly. See my rant on Meta. I'll eventually delete this post, but right now I'm going to add it to the rant for the sake of full disclosure. –  Robusto Jun 7 '12 at 13:06

No it is not common. At least it's not nearly as common as grit and determination which, however, means pretty much the same thing.

I often don't trust n-gram viewer as an indicator of anything meaningful (but merely of something quantifiable), but as it's in vogue in this question here's mine. (I have no idea what happened to the axes).

enter image description here

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