Hold Your Horses


“Antilochus—you drive like a maniac! Hold your horses!
The track’s too narrow here—it widens soon for passing—
watch out—you’ll crash your chariot, wreck us both!”

Homer, Book 23 of “The Iliad”

A Cool Drink

“Hold your horses!” It was a scorching summer afternoon the day we visited my grandparents. I was thirsty, impatient and eager to drink the lemonade my grandmother had made for me. “I don’t have any horses,” I said, my five-year-old mind racing to figure out what horses had to do with wanting a drink.  That day, I discovered that my grandmother rode in a horse-drawn carriage, not a car, when she was my age.  When her father would “hold his horses” that meant he would pull on the reins to let the horses know to stop and wait.

Words give context, and refer to an event.  There are stories behind the words and expressions that we use, some of them dating back to ancient languages, and some borrowed from languages of our time. I’m fairly certain that my grandmother was unaware that others, in centuries past, used the same phrase. Homer, in the Iliad, writes “hold your horses” when Antilochus drives like a madman in a chariot race initiated by Achilles for Patroclus’s funeral games.  Roman soldiers would “hold their horses” when the battle noise raged.  When the Chinese invented gunpowder, they would have to hold their horses, at the sound of the explosions.

One thing that I remember about my grandmother – she had the “patience of Job”

“Hold your horses, hold the job until further orders. (comes from the Artillery)”

Hunt and Pringle’s Service Slang (1943)