English : Bite The Bullet

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What is the origin and meaning of the expression to Bite The Bullet?

By Mr. Melanesian, Philippines, 10th June-2007

Every year, after the budget speech, the Finance Minister invariably tells us
to bite the bullet. Perhaps it's his way of ensuring that we get the required iron into our system. What does he mean by to bite the bullet? What is it that you normally do when you are in terrible pain? You usually clench your fist, grit your teeth, or bite on something. By doing all these things you don't get rid of the pain, you merely lessen it. When the pain becomes acute, it is possible these days to take a painkiller. But in the old days, there were no painkillers. When doctors operated on patients, they didn't give them anesthesia, they merely gave them something to bite on - a piece of wood or a piece of iron. This was done to help the patient endure the pain, not to get rid of it. Having something in the mouth also prevented the patient from screaming into the doctor's ears. During wars, when soldiers had to be operated on, doctors usually gave them - you guessed it - a bullet to bite on. So when someone asks you to bite the bullet, they want you to accept something difficult or unpleasant and endure it. In other words, you put up with a bad situation.

Here are a few examples:

• Rohan decided to bite the bullet and pay extra for the car that he really wanted.

• Housewives are biting the bullet after another increase in LPG prices.

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