Meddling with Mettle

By Maeve Maddox

Another of Daniel’s great words of the day, mettle, provoked readers’ comments that have in turn prompted me to get into the act.

Reader’s Comment 1

Mettle can also mean the “stuff of which a person is made.”
So if I say I’m made of mettle, people won’t think I’m a robot (or, more likely, delusional)?

I know that Peter was joking, but I just wanted to point out that although the word means “the stuff of which a person is made,” to say “I’m made of mettle” wouldn’t make sense.

Most commonly the word mettle is used with a verb like show, test, or prove:

Miami proves its mettle in win over Oklahoma
Bilo rugby boys show their mettle
NCC cadets test their mettle

Other idioms with mettle:
to be on your mettle: to be determined to prove that you are good at something, especially in a difficult situation

Nancy coach Paul Fischer knows his team must be on their mettle as they seek…

Study puts stents on their mettle. (in this case an inanimate object is being put on its mettle. Probably not an apt use of the expression.)

Here’s a headline that plays on the same pronunciation (and same original meaning) of mettle and metal:

Scrap thefts: Cops on their mettle

The adjective mettlesome means “lively, high-spirited, courageous.”

. . . M. Epailza, one of our most mettlesome adversaries…

The word seems to have some specialized meaning for gamers:

Copy this simulator to the mettlesome directory
Run the Trainer. Start the mettlesome with this trainer.


I certainly can’t figure out what “mettlesome” is supposed to mean in this paragraph on a gaming site:

Buy wow characters, you are ensuring you can freely mettlesome without the hornlike slog. There’s no requirement to intend on the mettlesome an distance early than customary so you can conjoin for eve accounts you can go on at your connatural instance and savor the mettlesome to its flooded possible ness the aforementioned way thousands of others do. —INWOWGOLD.COM

Reader’s Comment 2

How about one who mettles in someone else’s business to the detriment of the relationship or the business?

One meddles in someone else’s business.

The usual sense of meddle these days is “to interfere,” as in these headlines:

Building chief tells politicians not to meddle in Olympics
Avoid the Temptation to Meddle in Haiti
How insurers meddle in your medical care

The word meddle comes from French and Latin words meaning “to mix.” The meaning “to concern oneself,” usually in a negative sense, dates from 1415. From 1340-1700 it was used as a euphemism for “to have sexual intercourse.” Shakespeare draws on this meaning in this exchange:

Third Servingman: How, sir! do you meddle with my master?
Coriolanus: Ay; ‘tis an honester service than to meddle with thy mistress. —Coriolanus: IV, 5

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


Share


4 Responses to “Meddling with Mettle”

  • Iapetus999

    And I would have gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids and your dog!

  • Brad K.

    I think of mettle as an attribute, like the sheen of a fabric. Mettle is an attribute of character composed of competence, perseverance, and of dependable responsibility.

    Mettle might mean “having moxie”. Maybe.

    On your mettle, then, would be to encourage one to efforts and application such as to display the mettle of their character.

    Mettlesome, other than the “Buy wow . . .” thing, is displaying the aspects of mettle through diligence and honor.

    On the gamer thing. That might be a bad translation from another human language. But it also looks like a bad SEO thing, a page of gibberish generated to impress some gamer search engine, but not actually intended to be viewed by people.

  • thebluebird11

    AFA the “stents on their mettle”: Stents (at least as used in the medical field) are small conduits like straws that are inserted into the body to keep things patent. So you can have stents inserted in your coronary arteries, stents in the bile ducts, etc. They basically function to keep the walls of these structures open, as a bolster. Some are, in fact, made of metal (and called “bare metal stents”), so it is possible that this entry too plays on the words mettle/metal. There are other stents that are impregnated with various drugs (“drug-eluting stents”), and these drugs are slowly released over time (e.g. anti-clotting agents, antibiotic agents etc). Altho I don’t know the specific context of the above-mentioned phrase about stents, I assume that it is talking about testing the mettle of stents (seeing how they compare, hold up over time, etc).

  • Thorn

    I play WoW and that site hurts my brain, certainly looks like a bad translation, there’s a glimmer of sense between the strange words to suggest it was originally meant to be readable, but I find myself tempted to “balliform an assault group to carry raids against adversary territories” It has a better ring to it than the gamer speak of “LFG to raid SW”

Leave a comment: