This information should be the most trustworthy because it hasn’t been filtered through other people and opinions. The idiom dates back at least to the 1900s, if not earlier. Like most idioms, its true point of origin is contentious. But, most believe it originated in horse racing.
Explore the Idiom 'straight from the horse’s mouth'
The phrase “straight from the horse’s mouth” describes what happens when someone hears information from a reliable source, usually the first-hand or original source.
For example, learning about an event from the person who experienced it rather than from someone who saw it. The horse’s mouth is a metaphor for the source of information. Since it comes “straight” from the mouth, it’s not been influenced, intentionally or unintentionally, by anyone else.
The phrase “straight from the horse’s mouth” is usually connected to horse racing. When people were placing bets, those that had the best information were those closest to the racers. This led to the development of the saying “the horse’s mouth.” If the betting tip came straight from the horse’s mouth, then it was more likely to lead to the better gaining profits. It’s been in common use since the 1900s but was perhaps coined earlier in the 1800s.
When To Use the Phrase
It’s possible to use “straight from the horse’s mouth” in a wide variety of situations. It could be used among friends, family members, and even colleagues. Despite the fact that it’s a colloquialism, it’s not so slang-like that it would be entirely out of place within one’s workplace. That being said, one is likely better off using another version of the same phrase. This is certainly true for even more formal settings, like within an academic paper or meeting.
One might use the phrase when they want to prove the authenticity of their information. For example, if a friend questions another friend about a piece of information, they might say they got it “straight from the horse’s mouth.” This would, in theory, make the other friend understand how truthful and accurate the information is. It could also be used to explain why something someone has said is wrong. The information maybe didn’t come “straight from the horse’s mouth.”
- No, it’s true. I got it straight from the horse’s mouth.
- Did you hear that piece of gossip straight from the horse’s mouth?
- I only trust information that comes straight from the horse’s mouth.
- If it didn’t come straight from the horse’s mouth, I don’t trust it.
- Is your source straight from the horse’s mouth?
Why Do Writers Use the Phrase
Writers use “straight from the horse’s mouth” in the same way that people use the phrase in everyday conversations. It could be used within a narrator’s depiction of a scene, event, or piece of information. Or, it could be used within characters’ conversations. For example, a writer might use the phrase within the dialogue with one character, ensuring another that they have accurate information. It’s also easy to imagine how this phrase could be used when a writer wants to demonstrate a character’s belief in their own information, even if it’s not accurate.
Like most idioms, this one is quite well-known. This means that writers are unlikely to come across a reader who hasn’t heard the phrase in one variation or another. In turn, this leads to the phrase sounding less interesting than it might’ve in the early 1900s. Most writers are going to try to stay away from idioms that may come across as cliché.
The best time to get information straight from the horse’s mouth is when that information is going to be acted on, and the results are incredibly important. For example, if you hear a rumor about someone’s infidelity, you’re going to want to confirm it before accusing them.
Interestingly, although the phrase is meant to convey accuracy and reliability, what it does share is credibility. The information came from a credible source, but that doesn’t mean the source was right about their information, to begin with. A faulty source is going to lead to faulty information.
Generally, this idiom is not offensive. It’s not truly comparing someone to a horse but is referencing a longer history in which horses played a role.
The tone is informative. But, depending on how a character or person in everyday life uses it, it can take on any tone one wants. It could be scolding, prideful, or more.