A Chip on Your Shoulder (Origin)
What Is the Origin of the Saying "A Chip on Your Shoulder"?The term "to have a chip on your shoulder" means being upset about something that happened in the past. More specifically, it means to hold a grudge for a past event or treatment.
"To have a chip on one's shoulder" originates in the US. It comes from the boyhood practice of spoiling for a fight by carrying a chip of wood on the shoulder and daring others to knock it off. In 1830, New York newspaper "The Long Island Telegraph" printed the following:
- "When two churlish boys were determined to fight, a chip would be placed on the shoulder of one, and the other demanded to knock it off at his peril."
Table of Contents
- English Proverbs and Idioms Test
- More Proverbs, Sayings, and Idioms
Examples of Use:
- A chip on your shoulder refers to someone who holds a grudge or is easily provoked and confrontational.
- He always had a chip on his shoulder, ready to pick a fight at the slightest provocation.
- She carried a chip on her shoulder from past experiences, making her defensive and quick to take offense.
- His constant need to prove himself stemmed from a chip on his shoulder resulting from a difficult upbringing.
- Having a chip on your shoulder can prevent you from building positive relationships and hinder personal growth.
Competing TheoryThe term "to have a chip on your shoulder" comes from the British Royal Dockyards in the 18th century. Back then, ship workers (called shipwrights) were permitted, as a perk of the job, to carry "chips" (pieces of wood for fuel or building) home after work. This perk is recorded in Royal Navy Board standing order dated August 1739:
- "Shipwrights to be allowed to bring [chips] on their shoulders near to the dock gates, there to be inspected by officers."