nailed to the mast

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Finland Finnish
Cannot find nowhere what it means. "You had a kind of nailed to the mast smile which was one of the most heartrending things I have ever seen" . In N or M ? by Agatha Christie.
  • GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    It is a reference to the idea of nailing one's colours/flag to the mast of a ship. In old-fashioned naval battles, a ship showed that it was surrendering by striking (=lowering) its national flag (=its colours.) If you nailed your flag to the mast, it could not be lowered; therefore, to nail your flag to the mast showed an absolute determination that you would never surrender. To describe a "smile" this way indicates that the woman is determined to keep smiling no matter what happens.

    You may read more about it here: Nailing the colours - Wikipedia
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