Good day,

I found an old Melbourne, AU tram ticket from sixties. On the back of it there is a writing "Standing on your dignity is a very insecure footing".

Trying to decipher the phrase, I fail to understand what does "Standing on your dignity" means. It's one of those cases when I understand each word separately but not the phrase context :)

  • Any interpretation here would be subjective, but I'd interpret it as saying that dignity is something that shifts and is uncertain at any given time. Just like building a house on top of a poor foundation means it could collapse at any time, so is basing your actions on dignity a poor idea. No doubt because (or so I interpret this), dignity isn't something that the author thinks is permanent. ("I'll give you this large sum of money if you do something undignified.") It comes across as cynical. Dec 31, 2018 at 4:12

1 Answer 1


'To stand on one's dignity' is an idiom which means to insist on being treated with due respect. Dignity cannot be achieved by force, it is given rather than taken. So the statement means to say that it is a very insecure approach / assertion / path to demand respect forcefully. Respect should be earned and not demanded.

Kindly refer more details here and here

  • I just want to know why I have been down voted. I assume that I have given the most relevant answer here with supporting references.
    – Explorer
    Dec 31, 2018 at 6:57
  • I'm not the downvoter—in fact, I'm the upvoter—but I think the negative vote may well have come because you merely linked to the content at Cambridge Dictionary and Macmillan Dictionary, rather than quoting the relevant definitions from the cited authorities. English Language & Usage seeks to provide one-stop shopping for readers, which in the case of explanations of meaning means including appropriate quotations within an answer. Having said that, I must say that I think your answer is quite solid in every other respect.
    – Sven Yargs
    Dec 31, 2018 at 7:10
  • 1
    o i c. Thanks. But I did give the content of those links in a gist in my very first statement. I added the links only to substantiate my answer.
    – Explorer
    Dec 31, 2018 at 7:12

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