…what does it mean to “run the gauntlet”? Well, today I found out!
If a shipmate was found guilty of committing a crime, such as stealing, he “was made to run between two rows of seamen while they, in turn, lashed him as hard as they wished with a short knotted rope or ‘nettle’” (Jeans 129).
This phrase came into expression during the Thirty Years’ War around 1640. The English term “gauntlet” was derived from the Swedish term “gatlopp.”
In literature, this phrase is the name of chapter 23, Book 3, in Markus Clarke’s For the Term of His Natural Life in which a convict, John Rex, plans a mutiny with other convicts. “To the left was a black object—a constable’s hut; to the right was a dim white line…”.
In pop culture, the Age of Ascension ritual, which is a rite of passage for a Klingon warrior (for all of you Trekkies), looks very similar to running the gauntlet!
Today, “to run the gauntlet” means to be attacked or criticized on all sides, or a happening that is difficult to get through, but who knew the phrase had a long, literal (and violent) history!
Would I want to “run the gauntlet”? No thanks!
Clarke, Markus. For the Term of His Natural Life. Project Gutenberg. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3424
Jeans, Peter D. Ship to Shore: A Dictionary of Everyday Words and Phrases Derived from the Sea. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 1993. Print.
Okuda, Michael and Denise. The Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future; Updated and Expanded Edition. New York, NY: Pocket Books, 1999. Print.