You have probably heard the term “Against the grain” at some point in your life. It is usually said about someone or something that goes against the mainstream or popular opinion. It can be a good thing by potentially bringing a new idea or new method to light but it implies that it is an uphill battle that is likely to meet resistance. The term has been used for restaurants, breweries, TV shows and has even made it to a well listened to national sports radio show for use by the show’s blogger to discuss football topics that go against conventional wisdom like Joe Montana being a system quarterback.
What exactly does going against the grain mean? Take a piece of wood, or have a look at that reclaimed wood floor from Aged Woods and really look at it. You should be able to see the grain of the wood. The grain goes in one direction. Cutting the wood with the grain is much easier to do and produces a neater cut. The grain is formed by the growth rings of the tree and to cut against the grain means you will have to work harder and the end result may not be as good. Going against the grain can also cause splinters which can hurt.
That is the conventional belief about what the phrase means but where does it come from? The truth is no one is really sure where the phrase originated. The oldest recorded use comes from 1607 in the Shakespeare play Coriolanus with the character Sinicius saying:
“Say, you chose him
More after our commandment than as guided
By your own true affections, and that your minds,
Preoccupied with what you rather must do
Than what you should, made you against the grain
To voice him consul: lay the fault on us.”
Considering that Shakespeare had a way with words and phrases it is quite possible that he is the originator of the phrase. Was he referring to wood? No one knows for sure. There are other ways to say this like going against the flow or not floating the mainstream. It is not bad, it is just not something we do when crafting the reclaimed wood that goes into your floor.