Talk:face the music

Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to: navigation, search

Etymology note. I was told:

This term originated back in the days when few people could read and even fewer could read music and fewer still could play the paino/organ well. The organ was often located in the back of a church, on a balcony for space reasons - but this was also a day before electric blowers for the billows. So, in order to hear the music better, the congregation often had to turn around and face the music in order to hear it better. But because of the poor literacy, the music was often bad; hence, the negative connotation of the phrase.

Cheers, --Stranger 14:21, 13 September 2005 (UTC)

Curious about the origins of this phrase, I googled and found a number of explanations. Versions of the one given above appear, though without the low-literacy/bad-music aspect. A frequent explanation attractive to me is that this phrase has exactly the same origin as "drummed out of the corps": the (British?) military tradition of including in a dishonorable discharge ceremony the ominous accompaniment of a drum corps. Another frequent mention is reference to an actor in musical theater who is obliged to face the orchestra pit and audience. Thing is, in all of this there are no citations to carry any of it beyond the level of speculation. I did find someone with bona fides discussing the phrase here, and at least early usages are cited. Steve Lovelace 01:13, 2 August 2008 (UTC)

One use of the term, and perhaps even its true origin, comes from the military ... but not from being "drummed out." In the late 1700s and 1800s, warfare often consisted of lines of soldiers facing each other and firing weapons at each other (grapeshot, bullets, balls from cannon, etc.). The sound made by these myriad bullets & balls was a steady, high-pitched whizzing or whining or whirring, as the ordinances flew over & past the heads of combatants. The average human's instinct, in the face of such flying death so steady & omnipresent it hummed like horrid music, would be to TURN AND FLEE in the other direction. But soldiers were encouraged to toughen up, show some backbone, NOT turn tail & run, but rather to press on, charging or marching towards (or at least holding one's ground), loading & firing, and FACING the enemy & the source of that frightening sound. Thus, soldiers in battle were encouraged to not chicken out, but "face the music." My reference for this comes from a survivor of a frontier battle between pro-slavery & anti-slavery or "free-state" partisans fighting in September 1857, in the territory of Kansas. User: JJ Jamieson