What can "ride straight" possibly mean in this?



So I've stumbled across the phrase while reading Agatha Christie's Five Little Pigs:

"Our firm, of course, has known many generations of the Crales. [...] Country squires, all of them, thought more about horses than human beings. They rode straight, liked women, and had no truck with ideas. [...]"

I've looked the word "ride" up but I'm still confused. Does it have something to do with their personality or it's just simply about riding horses (in a straight line)? I'd really appreciate it if you guys could help me figure this out, and yes, English is not my first language.


Posted 2017-01-30T18:25:15.437

Reputation: 113



I believe this is a vestige of hunting lingo, to ride straight to hounds, hunting being a typical sport of the country squire. It means to ride to the hounds (in a fox hunt) without taking a circuitous path in order to avoid obstacles such as ditches and hedges; riding straight to the action is emblematic of a robust forthrightness of character. It is analogous to being a straight shooter in American English.

Compare this excerpt from an 1865 story:

"What a good fellow Galton is", he began; "he has all the qualities and all the qualifications that both men and women like."

"He can ride straight to hounds, and hit a bird if he aims at it", she replied laughing.

"Women—and men too—like a fellow who can ride and tell the truth without swerving", he answered.

"There is an impression abroad that we weak-minded women 'go in', as you call it in your slang, for the athletic," she rejoined.


Posted 2017-01-30T18:25:15.437

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The modern idiom "to go straight" means to stop being a criminal and obey the law:

He decided to finally give up his life of petty thievery and go straight.

This use of "ride straight" clearly has a different meaning, and one that's old-fashioned and/or limited to British English. My interpretation without further context is that their personal and social views were simple and conservative -- they had a particular view of the world and didn't allow distraction from new "ideas" about how the world should be.

Full text of the paragraph:

Our firm, of course, has known many generations of the Crales. I knew Amyas Crale and his father, Richard Crale, and I can remember Enoch Crale-the grandfather. Country squires, all of them, thought more of horses than human beings. They rode straight, liked women, and had no truck with ideas. They distrusted ideas. But Richard Crales wife was cram full of ideas-more ideas than sense. She was poetical and musical-she played the harp, you know. She enjoyed poor health and looked very picturesque on her sofa. She was an admirer of Kingsley. Thats why she called her son Amyas. His father scoffed at the name-but he gave in.

The "rode straight" sentence is used to contrast with the following sentences about Richard Crales' wife, who is apparently a very different sort of person. My guess is that this contrast will be important to the story, at some future point.


Posted 2017-01-30T18:25:15.437

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"He rode straight" is not talking specifically about riding, but general attitude. He does not care for fripperies or time wasting or distractions.

A similar phrase which is used to this day would be "He's a straight shooter": Often used to describe a business person or sales person, meaning his deals are trustworthy, he speaks plainly (does not speak with lies and manipulation, does not speak elaborately with an aim to confuse).

He is not "crooked" (which means dishonest or deceitful),


Posted 2017-01-30T18:25:15.437

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