follow the straight and narrow

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follow the straight and narrow

Post by Archived Topic » Tue Dec 14, 2004 10:21 am

The meaning I can understand very well. I only have difficulty finding equivalents to this (useful) idiom, if any. Could you help, please?
Submitted by Julie Kay (Bronnitsy - Russia)
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follow the straight and narrow

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Dec 14, 2004 10:47 am

Julie, just a couple of remarks about the terms used in the idiom. The word 'straight' here is not what it seems. The saying comes from the Bible - to be precise, from Matthew 7:14:

"Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life." (King James version.)

Incidentally, "Strait is the gate" is the usual English translation of André Gide's French-language novel "La porte étroite" (literally "The narrow door"). 'Strait' is an obsolescent synonym for 'narrow'.
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)
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follow the straight and narrow

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Jan 07, 2005 7:55 am

Also, the ‘life’ in "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life" in Matthew 7:14 refers to ‘salvation’ and the ‘straight and narrow’ or ‘straight and narrow path’ or ‘walk the straight and narrow path’ was largely a Victorian concept of rectitude, which became current in the 19th century. The ‘strait and narrow’ means the honest and upright way of living, the path of virtue. “He led a wild life when he was young, but he’s been on the straight and narrow for some years.”

This Middle English ‘strait’ is the same one that gives us the ‘tight and narrow’ geographical ‘straits’ (e.g. Straits of Gibraltar, a narrow strip of land) and it derives from the Latin ‘strictus,’ to tighten, bind tightly, which also gives us ‘strict’ and ‘stricture.’ The ‘straits’ in ‘dire straits’ means ‘a condition of distressing narrowness or restriction.’ And the ‘strait’ in ‘straight-laced’ or 'strait-laced' originally meant tightly laced (see separate posting ‘straight-laced’).
<1842 “Loving Shepherd, ever near, Teach Thy lamb Thy voice to hear; Suffer not my steps to stray From the STRAIGHT AND NARROW way.”—‘Hymes & Scenes of Childhood’ by J. E. Leeson, page 25>

<1912 “In his younger gallivantings about places of ill repute, and his subsequent occasional variations from the STRAIGHT AND NARROW path, he had learned much of the curious resources of immorality.”—‘The Financier’ by Dreiser, xxiii. page 253>

<1930 “Robbins . . . said that he . . . would have to follow the STRAIGHT AND NARROW.”—‘The 42nd Parallel’ by Dos Passos, IV. page 275>
(American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés, Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, Oxford English Dictionary)
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