Keeping up appearances

  • ksequen

    Banned
    Guatemala, Spanish
    I'm not a native English speaker, but to me 'keep up appearances' means something completely different. Tell me if I'm wrong. For example,

    If my parents expect me to get straight A's, but even if I try really hard I can't do it... then I don't meet their expectations.

    Now, if my parents expect me to be a good student and I arrange one of my most brilliant classmate to do my homework, I'm just keeping up appearances.

    It's different right?
     

    chat9998

    Senior Member
    English, US
    Hi ksequen,

    Yep! Both examples are used correctly, and they mean different things! One is trying your best, but still not "cutting the mustard" ;-)

    The other is faking your performance, just to make yourself look better than you really are!

    Hope that helps,
    God bless,
    Jeff
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This thread has been created as an off-shoot from the cutting the mustard thread.

    Keeping up appearances is a much more subtle expression than has been suggested so far. It is nothing at all to do with faking performance.

    To understand this expression, you need to understand a world in which how other people perceive me is really, really important to me. How others perceive me is my "appearance".

    Keeping up appearances is what I do when I sacrifice all kinds of things so that you still perceive me as the kind of person I want you to perceive me to be. I starve so that I can afford to buy a good suit.
     

    stranger in your midst

    Senior Member
    English / Scotland
    But one could keep up the appearance of being a good student without necessarily aspiring to be one !

    Also, 'maintain the image', or 'preserve the myth'.

    However, I take the point - all these subtle gradations of meaning are shifting further away from the idea of 'cutting the mustard'.

    Incidentally, I usually find a knife works pretty well.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    But one could keep up the appearance of being a good student without necessarily aspiring to be one !

    Also, 'maintain the image', or 'preserve the myth'. [...]
    Ah yes, I see what you are getting at.

    You could keep up the appearance of ...
    ... without keeping up appearances:)

    There are two quite different idioms at play here, and I missed the other one.

    To keep up the appearance of - is to maintain the pretence by devious and underhand means.

    To keep up appearances - is to maintain an external perception by self-sacrifice.
     
    Top