What does a "stiff upper lip" mean to you?

Inspiried by this thread, I was wondering what the phrase “stiff upper lip” conjures up in your mind? Pride, aloofness, courage under fire? Would you use it as a compliment or insult? Is it something you strive for? Being an (obnoxiously at times) emotional person, I think that anyone who displays such composure is to be admired; however, I’m interested in hear other’s opinions.


A phrase taken from The Queen: duty before self. It doesn’t matter how you’re feeling, you need to stay calm in order to do your job and reassure those around you–or at least not drag them down.

I admire it. I’m not awfully good at it, but I admire it.

Put your emotions on the back burner and take care of business.

The phrase that comes to mind is…composed.

In control of your emotions, but not necessarily without them. A person with a “stiff upper lip” can still display that they are pleased, happy, etc. without grinning too widely or laughing out loud. They can display that they are sad, disappointed, etc. without bursting into tears, or show they are angry without yelling and ranting.

I admire it and I strive for it. I am usually successful. Much to the dismay of all the highly emotional people around me.

I’ve always seen it presented as a British trait. I’m a man in the middle of the US who knows the British only from books, movies, and TV. I wouldn’t say it’s courage under fire; rather, it’s courage after fire. When your house has burned down, and your wife has run off with your barber, your dog, and your pickup truck, a stiff upper lip is saying, “Right. Well, can you give me a ride to the pub? I’ll stand you to a pint, and we’ll get a bite to eat.” It’s the ability to not fall apart when everything has gone wrong.

Another kind of SUL is only the faintest expression of emotion. Like Garrison Keillor’s Minnesotans, they’re incapable of giving a clue of their deepest feelings. A bloke has fallen completely in love with a woman, but she doesn’t know it becaus he has told her only that she has nice hair.

From over here, I suspect Stiff Upper Lip exists in fiction, and nowhere else. How would I know? My ancestors from Nottingham crossed the ocean a long, long time ago. In my whole life, I may have met a dozen real live Brits.

To me, it means not crying, not showing an outward display of emotion. Keeping your face blank, your feelings hidden. Showing no weakness, showing nothing other than mere attention and maybe indifference.

When you are about to cry, your lips tend to quiver. Having a stiff upper lip is to fight through that and carry on. IMHO

I’ve seen it enough with my friend’s parents, who are English.

The good: mentioned already by most of the responses. You’re able to deal with what comes your way without getting bogged down by your own emotions. Churchill’s stalwart composure in the face of daily air raids is the perfect example.

The bad: you’re emotionally distant. If someone close to you is having a hard time, the best support you’re able to offer is usually along the lines of, “carry on.” When my friend was going through a long divorce, she really dreaded talking to her parents because she felt that they just couldn’t relate or give her any sympathy.

A good example of both the good and bad would be Sean’s Mother from Sean of the Dead: When the others find out she’d be bitten, and ask why she didn’t say anything, she replies, “oh, I didn’t want to be a bother.”

Churchill was actually quite an emotional guy by all accounts, crying a lot and prone to mood swings. Of course, he was half-American :wink:

Stoic British people.

The exact opposite of the C&W crying-in-your-beer cliche.

Steely resolve.

Admirable. Thought I think in private life your lips shhould get a bet less resolved…

I think of it as the older, British version of “New England Stoicism.”