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I've never understood the origin of the phrase, "keep a stiff upper lip". Presumably it's something to do with avoiding crying (as it means to remain stoical), but if anything it's the bottom lip that may wobble before one cries; generally the upper lip always stays stiff anyway. So, why do we say this to indicate stoicism?

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There's a related Briticism, "keep your pecker up", which sounds impossibly obscene to an American ear... –  MT_Head Jun 26 '11 at 18:25
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3 Answers 3

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As reported from the Online Etymology Dictionary, keep a stiff upper lip is attested from 1815.
It is probably referring to the facial mimic, in the same way bite one's lip and curl one's lip do.

The meaning of a stiff upper lip reported by the NOAD is "a quality of uncomplaining stoicism."

Senior managers had to keep a stiff upper lip and remain.

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From the Phrase Finder:

Remain resolute and unemotional in the face of adversity, or even tragedy.

This is such a clichéd expression that it is difficult to imagine doing anything else with a stiff upper lip apart from keeping it. It is similar to 'keep a straight face'

Hope that explained why we use it.

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Back when men grew moustaches, the quivering of the upper lip was more noticeable. Hence the phrase.

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Men still grow moustaches. –  Mahnax Jan 8 '12 at 7:26
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Do you have a source? –  simchona Jan 9 '12 at 4:28
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