Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps
Oct 15, 2013 | 1134 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE NORMAL WAY of someone putting on their boots is by sitting down and then pulling each boot on by their straps over one of their feet. Otherwise another person might help to get his boots on. Usually this assistance is not done unless the individual who needs his boots on has been sick or is stiff in the joints because of old age. But to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps is, in reality, impossible. A person might by jumping bring themself off the floor for two or three seconds. The expression: “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” is used figuratively to mean improving your status in some way.

Those by their own initiative who have become successful in a business are to be admired. Many who desire to start their own business works hard toward that goal. Some times by sacrificing personal needs in order to save money for that purpose. We speak of those who do so of starting off on a “shoestring.” Yet, a politician made the foolish statement: “If you got a business, you didn’t build that.” It might surprise some people that many businesses started by individual’s initiative without government help.

The origin of the expression: “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” is unknown. Two of its earliest known uses in formal writing are when James Joyce used a form of it in Ulysses, in 1922. He stated: “There were others who had forced their way to the top from the lowest rung by the aid of their bootstraps.” Kunitz & Haycraft’s British Authors of the 19th Century in 1936 uses a more complete use of it as follows: “A poet who lifted himself by his own boot-straps from an obscure versifier to the ranks of real poetry.” I also learned that in the early days of computers a process called bootstrapping alluded to this phrase. It was some kind of code which enabled them to load something off the internet. From this the term “booting” is now commonly expressed concerning loading from the internet to your computer.

Dub Mowery is a Gospel preacher in the Church of Christ. A native of Southeast Oklahoma, he is the author of Colloquial Sayings & Expressions (Morris Publishing, 2008)


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