True Grit

True Grit: A film Western (1969) based on a novel (1968) of the same name by Charles Portis (b. 1933). The film starred John Wayne as an indomitable one-eyed marshal, ‘Rooster’ Cogburn, who is eventually persuaded to help a determined teenage girl avenge herself upon her father’s murderers. According to Portis, he picked up the phrase while researching memoirs about the old West, in which all manner of heroes were praised for their ‘grit’ (meaning their determination and courage):

‘I had never seen it in such profusion as in these books. There was grit, plain grit, plain old grit, clear grit, pure grit, pure dee grit (a euphemism for damned) and true grit. Thus the hard little word was in my head when I began the story.’

He jotted the phrase down on the title page of his script for use within the text when it became appropriate, and then realized it would make a good title itself. Portis was not, as he admitted himself, the first writer to make use of the phrase: as early as 1897 Bram Stoker quoted it in his novel Dracula.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

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