nail one's colors to the mast

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High on grammar

Senior Member
Hello everyone:

Have I used the idiom "nail one's colors to the mast" correctly in the following sentence?

You should nail your colors to the mast ( meaning "make it clear") as to what you want to do with your life.

  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I don't think the expression works there, HoG. Here's The Phrase Finder's explanation, which refers to 17th century naval battles:

    To defiantly display one's opinions and beliefs. Also, to show one's intention to hold on to those beliefs until the end.

    [...] If all of a ship's masts were broken the captain usually had no alternative but to surrender. If the captain decided to fight on this was marked by hoisting the colours on the remnants of the ship's rigging, that is, by 'nailing his colours to the mast'.​

    I would only use, myself, it in the context of showing determined support for a particular opinion or one particular side of a dispute.
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