Stiff upper lip  

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One who has a stiff upper lip displays fortitude in the face of adversity, or exercises great self-restraint in the expression of emotion. The phrase is most commonly heard as part of the idiom "keep a stiff upper lip", and has traditionally been used to describe an attribute of British people (particularly upper-middle and upper class), who are sometimes perceived by other cultures as being unemotional. A sign of weakness is trembling of the upper lip, hence the saying keep a stiff upper lip. When a person's upper lip begins to tremble, it is one of the first signs that the person is scared or experiencing deep emotion. Poems that feature a memorable evocation of Victorian stoicism and a stiff upper lip include Rudyard Kipling's "If—" and W. E. Henley's "Invictus". The idiom seems however of American origin; its earliest known example is in a publication called the Massachusetts Spy for 14 June 1815: "I kept a stiff upper lip, and bought [a] license to sell my goods."

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