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Keep one’s nose to the grindstone

刊登日期: 2017.06.17
作者: Grace Tse  

Towards the end of the school year, students are busy with lots of tests and exams. How would you like to describe the efforts that you are making to achieve the best results? 

To express that they work very hard, English-speaking students often say, 

I keep my nose to the grindstone(埋頭苦幹)to prepare for my exam. 

The idiom “keep one’s nose to the grindstone” first appeared in English in the 16th century. Do not confuse a grindstone with a millstone. A grindstone is a large round stone used for sharpening tools. A millstone is a pair of large round stones used for grinding grain. Why did people keep their noses to the grindstone? There are two popular stories behind this idiom. 

Some scholars said that this was a form of punishment by holding someone’s nose to the grindstone, and this phrase meant a harsh treatment of other people. 

However, some scholars said that this phrase was used to describe knife grinders. In the past, knife grinders bent over the grindstones to sharpen the knives. They focussed on their work so hard that they even had their faces near the grindstones in order to sharpen the blades more effectively. 

There are several forms of this idiom. 

Put your nose to the grindstone. I am sure that you can get the best test results. 

As long as you hold your nose to the grindstone, you will be successful. 

To prepare for the chess competition, he has had his nose to the grindstone for months. 


Glossary

Efforts 努力
Achieve 取得
Grindstone 砂輪
Millstone 磨石
Punishment 懲罰
Harsh 嚴厲
Knife grinders 磨刀工人
Blades 刀鋒

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