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keep a civil tongue in one's head

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Speak politely, as in The teacher won't allow swearing; she says we must keep a civil tongue in our heads. This expression uses tongue in the sense of “a manner of speaking,” a usage dating from the 1400s. An early cautionary version was “Keep a good tongue in your head, lest it hurt your teeth” (1595).

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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