English : To Take Someone Down A Peg or Two

What is the origin and meaning of the expression To Take Someone Down A Peg Or Two?

All of us, at some time or the other, have had the misfortune of meeting arrogant people. When we run into such people, what is it that we would like to do? We would like to teach them a lesson in humility. We would like to show them that they are not as good or as great as they think they are. When you make these arrogant people realize they are not as good as they think they are, you are taking or bringing them down a peg or two. You are cutting them down to size.

Here are a few examples:

• It's about time that we brought that arrogant Sanjay down a peg or two.

• In Australia, many of our star players were taken down a peg or two.

• My uncle takes great pleasure in taking everyone down a peg or two.

The British navy frequently used this expression in the 18th century. In those days, the importance of a ship was determined by how high its colors or flags were flying. These flags or colors were raised or lowered by a system of pegs: the higher the peg to which the flag was attached, the greater the ship's honor. So if the flag was tied to the highest peg, it implied that it was a very important ship. When the flag was placed on a lower peg, it implied that the honor given to it was not great. So when you bring or take someone down a peg or two, what you are actually doing is lowering or reducing the honor or esteem of that particular individual.

COURTESY : The Hindu (The National News-Paper) - India

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