sealed » steeled

Chiefly in:   s.o.'s lips are steeled

Classification: English – questionable

Spotted in the wild:

  • “My lips are steeled.” (Degrassi television show, seen 27 August 2005)
  • ” Word on the street is a friend of mine went drinking with this chap. I must know more, but everyone’s lips are steeled. Ahahahahahah. Damn them!” (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Ken Rudolph (Usenet newsgroup soc.motss, 27 August 2005)

The formula “X’s lips are sealed”, used to convey ‘X will not divulge anything’, isn’t hard to work out, but it seems that at least a few people (so far I have only the two cites above) find it opaque and have improved it via the intrusion of the verb “steel” ‘make hard, obdurate’ (or perhaps the noun “steel”, evoking the image of sealing one’s lips with a steel zipper). An intermediate step might be provided by occurrences of the verb “steel” with “lips” as its object, as in these two examples supplied by Chris Waigl:

Naked at Mulder’s feet again. I could really, really get used to this.
But not tonight, dammit. I steeled my lips in a hard line and stood up,
making a Herculean effort not to look at the beautiful, hard, straining
cock right in front of me. (link)

Steeling his lips in a grimace of grim determination, Michael made his
way stoically towards the one place that Nikita could be. (link)

| link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/08/29 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Jake Tolbert , 2006/10/03 at 1:42 am

    It seems to me, although I’ve never heard this eggcorn before, that there might be some relation to ’steeling yourself’ when you get ready to take on something difficult. That seems to be the idea in the second example with Michael and Nikita. In fact, I would think you could replace the first phrase of that example with ‘Steeling himself, Michael….” with very little change in meaning.

    Perhaps there’s some accidental replacement going on here?

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