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The Origination Of A Phrase: Bite The Bullet
We've all heard the above phrase. There are different variations to the sentiment, and equally different meanings. The term can apply to taking a chance, stepping up to the plate, or even to death. Time has a way of 'turning a phrase', so to speak.
During my research into Native American culture, specifically the Plains Indians, I discovered where the phrase originated through reading. Apparently, white buffalo hunters, after finding themselves on the wrong end of a Comanche spear (or perhaps more apt - after finding their friends and acquaintances on the wrong end of Comanche spears) decided it better to take their own lives rather than end up captive to a war party.
Victims were tortured horribly when caught killing buffalo solely for their hides. The Indians wanted to send a powerful warning to those slaughtering their very means of survival. Tensions had escalated for years over thinning herds and shrinking hunting grounds. As a result, Comanche (Not only Comanche, I'd like to add) warriors actively sought to destroy the men responsible. Speared to the ground, men were discovered with their ears, tongues, and even genitals severed and stuffed into their mouths. Some were skinned and left for dead, just as they had left the buffalo. Others were used as a base for cooking fires, the cast off buffalo carcasses roasted on the captive's belly. Brutal, no? White buffalo hunters feared capture (and most importantly what would come after capture) more than death - and can you blame them? Not without irony do I note that these adventurers, so intent on financial gain, 'Bit The Bullet' so to speak in chancing capture to hunt the buffalo in the first place. But I digress...
Nearly all hunters carried a .50 calibre cartridge that had been emptied and filled with cyanide. Hence, when the day was lost, they would 'Bite The Bullet' rather than face the alternative - capture and certain torture at the hands of a war party. I had never heard this before. My introduction and understanding of the phrase had led me to believe its gist was 'taking a chance' or 'testing fate'. While the phrase has taken on this meaning since those days, its origin reveals a much more sinister beginning.