‘to nail one’s colours to the mast’: meanings and origin

UK, 1808—to make one’s beliefs or intentions plain—from the former practice of nailing an ensign to the mast of a ship, after damage during battle resulted in the ship’s colours no longer being clearly displayed, which otherwise might have been interpreted as a signal of surrender

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‘scarlet letter’: meanings and origin

a representation of the letter A in scarlet cloth which Hester Prynne is condemned to wear in The Scarlet Letter (1850), by Nathaniel Hawthorne—soon came to be used figuratively in the sense of a stigma, a mark of infamy

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