As the Expression Goes

I've never really understood the expression, "cutting off your nose to spite your face."

To clarify, I know how to use it, and what it translates to, "a needlessly self-destructive over-reaction to a problem" as well-articulated by Wikipedia. But I just don't get the literal meaning in any way. What does that even mean?!

I also worried about flipping it to "cutting your face to spite your nose." Which would kind of make more sense, that your nose would more inevitably get in the way if you were seeking to cut your face, not the other way around.)

I wanted to use the expression today at work, as I heard a higher-up was thinking of pulling some work that we'd invested a lot of money in because of something that no one else would really know was wrong with the creative. But I hesitated. Should I really toss out a statement that I had no idea how to really explain?

Turns out its origin is also described on Wikipedia, "The phrase is known to have been used in the 12th century. It may be associated with the numerous cases of pious women disfiguring themselves in order to protect their virginity. These cases include Saint Eusebia, Saint Ebba, Saint Oda of Hainault and Saint Margaret of Hungary."

Huh. Probably still not something I'd want to explain in the workplace.

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