Bite the Bullet – Common Phrases
Accepting something difficult or unpleasant.
Most say it came from …
When engaged in war there are times when emergency surgery is needed: Legs have to come off or deeply-buried bullets need to come out. And sometimes, there’s no time for anesthesia when the Nazis are bearing down.
So, rather then stabbing a patient in the arm to distract him from the saw going through his foot, the surgeon would supposedly shove a bullet in his mouth and ask him to bite down. Of course, you could use a belt or shirt but even in the throes of death it’s important for a man to look like a badass. Thus, “Bite the bullet.”
So is that true?
All signs point to yes. And thank God for that, as we would hate to think that a soldier being operated on with no medication in the middle of a battle is some kind of cloth biter.
But, notice how we said “All signs point to yes” and not a definitive “yes.” Nailing down the origins of these sayings is an inexact science. The only other popular theory has to do with the preparation of bullet before firing (in old carbine rifles, you had to bite a paper cap off the cartridge so the spark could reach the gun powder).
That one would of course make no sense, since no one would equate that task with resolutely doing something unpleasant. You might as well say it’s about that dude who claimed to catch bullets out of the air in his teeth. In fact, let’s just go with that one.