straighten up and fly right

S

straighten up and fly right

Meaning

  • to get serious and stop acting absurd anymore.
  • to act in mature manner and get focused.
  • used to indicate to them that someone is misbehaving and needs to start acting correctly.
  • It is roughly synonymous with the idioms “get your act together” and “quit screwing around.”

Examples in Sentences

  1. You haven’t been staying on top of your homework. You better straighten up and fly right or you will get a bad grade.
  2. After almost being killed in a car accident, he decided he needed to straighten up and fly right. Ever since, he has been a careful and law-abiding driver.

Origin

Straighten up and fly right” was a 1943 song by Nat King Cole. The song was inspired by a folk tale known as “The Buzzard and the Monkey,” which Cole had learned from his father, Edward Coles, a Baptist minister. In the story, a turkey vulture tricks various other animals into taking them for a ride on his back. However, in midflight, he would throw them off and then devour them. A monkey witnesses the trick and asks to go for a ride. Knowing what the vulture was planning, he wraps his tail around the bird’s neck, threatening to choke him. According to the folk tale, the vulture now only eats carrion because the monkey cursed him for tricking and killing the other animals.

In 1973, Diane Wolkstein published the tale as a children’s book titled, The Cool Ride in the Sky. Paul Galdone illustrated the book.

There are other, much older tales concerning a monkey and buzzard, which also provide a mythical explanation of why vultures eat carrion. For example, an ancient Buddhist jātaka—traditional stories about the Buddha’s past lives—describes an interaction between a lion, the king of the terrestrial animals, and a vulture, the king of the avians. A monkey had asked the lion to watch two young monkeys. When the vulture threatens to take them as food, the lion insists that he not. The vulture then requires an alternative: he demands that the lion allow him to feast on his flesh. The king of the terrestrial animals agrees, and he rips open his side, thereby protecting the young monkeys.

Share your thoughts1 Thought

I think it may be an archery term. An arrow that is not straight will not hit its mark. For an arrow to fly accurately to its mark, it must straighten up, and then consequently, it would fly right.

‒ Danny Ramer January 28, 2023

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