To Grasp The Nettle
This phrase that means essentially to attack boldly a difficult problem or situation, has been a saying for centuries. The nettle has had a bad reputation for a long time and has been the curse of many a gardener. Its hairs secrete an acrid liquid that stings the skin if touched or brushed against. But actually the nettle has been very helpful to mankind both as food, also as a medicinal cure for ailments and also as a fabric for sheets and even tablecloths. The secret and origin of the phrase is that nettles cause no pain or difficulties when handled firmly.
Words by Adam Jacot de Boinod, author of The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words from around the World, published by Penguin Books and creator of the iPhone App Tingo, a quiz on Interesting Words