Background:

When sharpening blades, knife grinders often tend to bending over the grindstone, or also like level down with their encounters near the grindstone in stimulate to hold the blades versus the stone.

You are watching: What does keep your nose to the grindstone mean

The earliest recognized reference is in man Frith"s A mirrour or glasse to understand thyselfe in 1532: "This message holdeth your noses so difficult to the grindstone, the it clean disfigureth your faces." Frith was an English protestant priest who was arrested in 1532 top top the order of Thomas much more (Lord Chancellor in ~ the time) and also burned in ~ the stake a few months later on for refusing come renounce his stated belief that no purgatory no one transubstantiation might be proven. The website phrases.org.uk notes, and dismisses, a competitor explanation that this phrase as coming from the habit of millers to inspect that the stones offered for grinding cereal weren"t overheating by putting their nose to the stones in order to smell any kind of burning. Not only is this one unlikely resource as millers occupational millstones, no grindstones (in early on English it appears that millstone and also grindstone could have to be interchangeable, yet writings from as beforehand as the 1400s suggest a difference between them). Added to this, a miller sometimes sniffing the rock to examine for burning does not illustrate the ethic the persistent tough work the the image of the knife grinder bent perpetually over his rock does.

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