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Most language historians, though, believe the phrase dates to the early 19th century and the custom of using chips in fighting, which might explain how the expression came to have the meaning we associate with it today. Likewise, rather than literally being handed a tool for chopping wood, if you get the ax from your boss, it means you’re getting fired. In American author Mark Twain's 1898 manuscript of Schoolhouse Hill, character Tom Sawyer states his knowledge of the phrase and custom when he says, "[I]f you want your fuss, and can't wait till recess, which is regular, go at it right and fair; put a chip on your shoulder and dare him to knock it off."[2]. For instance: First, it’s helpful to know that the meaning of the word chip in this expression is “a small, usually thin and flat, piece of wood” that has been cut, or chipped, off from a larger piece—not a potato chip or french fry. You can find me on LinkedIn, or access my online portfolio here. But the expression is actually used to describe a person who’s in trouble. To have a chip on one's shoulder refers to the act of holding a grudge or grievance that readily provokes disputation. Has someone ever told you that you had a “chip on your shoulder”? A similar notion is mentioned in the issue of the Onondaga Standard of Syracuse, New York on 8 December 1830: "'He waylay me', said I, 'the mean sneaking fellow—I am only afraid that he will sue me for damages. This song describes some of the pain Rod Wave feels while carrying this … The boys would then square off and fistfight like boxers.[3][4]. It’s time to face the music.

The idiom chip on one’s shoulder refers to someone with a belligerent attitude or grievance, which usually comes from a grudge one holds against someone or something. In 1855, another newspaper, the Weekly Oregonian, printed the phrase again relating to fighting: “Leland, in his last issue, struts out with a chip on his shoulder, and dares Bush to knock it off.”. Find many more examples of common English idioms here. In Schoolhouse Hill by Mark Twain, the character Tom Sawyer even acknowledges that putting a chip on your shoulder and daring someone to knock it off is a surefire way to start a fight. The challenger might further provoke his opponent by issuing a dare for him to knock off the chip.

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant. You may hold a grudge against something or someone, say a person from your past who you believe treated you poorly or unfairly.

To have a chip on one's shoulder refers to the act of holding a grudge or grievance that readily provokes disputation. And when someone has hit the nail on the head, they’ve gotten an answer exactly right or done something exactly as it should have been done. When it comes to chip on your shoulder, if you tried to understand the phrase just by looking at the individual words it contains, and only knew the definition of the word chip to be potato chip or french fry, you’d take it to mean that you had a crumb of potato chip or fry on your shoulder. Reportedly back then, shipwrights (aka carpenters with skill in ship construction and repair) were allowed to bring home leftover chips of wood from the job to be used for firewood or their own construction projects. If you have a chip on your shoulder, you are angry all the time because of your past; you believe you were treated wrongly or got an unfair or unjust shake. I currently reside in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s time to face the music means that it’s time to come to terms with the consequences of your actions. A Chip on Your Shoulder Meaning Definition: A bad attitude that tends to get someone upset easily, oftentimes stemming from a grudge held against someone. The expressions by and large and under the weather both appear to have nautical origins.). Because you don’t feel you’ve been given fair treatment in life, and have perhaps adopted a perceived sense of inferiority, you have a negative attitude and outlook in general; you get easily offended and are always ready for difficulty or trouble. These words and phrases have a figurative rather than literal meaning. William M. Gibson, ed., Mark Twain's Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969), p.177. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College and a Master of Education (MEd) in Secondary English Education from the University of Florida. Here are just a few of the most common idioms used today: You’re in hot water. (It’s not the only idiom thought to begin at sea!

if I only could get him to knock a chip off my shoulder, and so get round the law, I would give him one of the soundest thrashings he ever had'." You need a chip on your shoulder, Little Miss Woods comma Elle. What you need is to get to work. I just need to prove to everyone that I'm serious.

His boss gave him the ax. It can also mean a person thinking too much of oneself (often without the credentials ) … if I only could get him to knock a chip off my shoulder, and so get round the law, I would give him one of the soundest thrashings he ever had.’”. Even if you knew chip to mean a small piece of wood, if you were to take the expression at face value, you’d think we used it today as it was used back in the 18th or 19th century, to mean you had a small wood chip on your shoulder.

To have a chip on your shoulder means you have a heavy burden in life that you must carry. In the 1970s a commercial for a household battery used Robert Conrad, who dared the viewer to knock an Eveready battery off his shoulder. It’s possible the idiom chip on your shoulder originated in the 18th century in the British Royal Dockyards. You’ve hit the nail on the head.If you took the first example literally, you’d think it was describing a person standing in a bathtub full of hot water, perhaps. Though I can't take the day off, I just think of the payoff. Some time later in 1855, the phrase "chip on his shoulder" appeared in the Weekly Oregonian, stating "Leland, in his last issue, struts out with a chip on his shoulder, and dares Bush to knock it off". Later that year, an issue of the Onondaga Standard, out of Syracuse, New York, included the copy: “‘He waylay me’, said I, ‘the mean sneaking fellow—I am only afraid that he will sue me for damages. As mentioned at the start of this post, an idiom is an expression with an intended meaning that can’t fully be understood just by looking at the words that comprise it. In May of 1830, the New York newspaper the Long Island Telegraph described the practice of using chips to start a brawl, reporting: “When two churlish boys were determined to fight, a chip would be placed on the shoulder of one, and the other demanded to knock it off at his peril.”.

In more formal cases, a second might take the chip and present the chip to his man who would then place it on his own shoulder. Let’s explore the meaning of the phrase, as well as its suspected origin. It could be said you’re always looking for a fight.Here are some example sentences using the expression chip on your shoulder: As you might suspect, you can also change the pronoun you in this phrase depending on who you’re talking about. It’s said they would carry the chips on their shoulder for inspection before taking them off the site. [1], This custom[clarification needed] is known in North America since the early 19th century. The New York newspaper Long Island Telegraph reported on 20 May 1830 "when two churlish boys were determined to fight, a chip would be placed on the shoulder of one, and the other demanded to knock it off at his peril". I'm excited to explore all things English with you and The Word Counter! The Origin of the Phrase.

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If you have a chip on your shoulder, you have a bad attitude and get angry easily.

A dictionary of slang and unconventional English, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chip_on_shoulder&oldid=978946025, Wikipedia articles needing clarification from March 2017, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 17 September 2020, at 21:34. For the past 15 years, I've dedicated my career to words and language, as a writer, editor, and communications specialist and as a language arts educator.

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