spit and polish

spit and polish

noun
great care in maintaining smart appearance and crisp efficiency: The commander was concerned more with spit and polish than with the company's morale.

spit-and-polish [spit-n-pol-ish] , adjective
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World English Dictionary
spit and polish
 
n
informal punctilious attention to neatness, discipline, etc, esp in the armed forces

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

spit and polish

Close attention to appearance and order, as in With a little spit and polish this house will sell very quickly. This expression originated in the military, presumably alluding to literally shining up something with the aid of a little saliva. There it also came to mean "too much attention to appearance, and not enough to more important concerns," as in The commander is so concerned with spit and polish that he overlooks the crew's morale. [Late 1800s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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