I don’t use the phrase “run the gauntlet.” However, I have read and heard it lately. This is because I read the book American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson and watch him on The Late Late Show.
I don’t really know the meaning. I know that Craig Ferguson used it in referring to something that bullies made him do in Scotland. Looking at the information for the phrase, it turns out that it means, “to go through a series of criticisms by your detractors.”
The phrase that I am more familiar with when it comes to the word “gauntlet” is “throw down the gauntlet.” This is when one knight would challenge another knight or one member of the English nobility would challenge another member of the English nobility to a challenge. The person issuing the challenge would literal throw down the gauntlet. Gauntlets are very stern gloves, even sterner than gardening gloves now called gauntlets, that knights and nobility wore.
When I was young, I’d get the word “gauntlet” confused with “goblet,” and imagine a knight bringing out a goblet and throwing it on the ground. I now understand the difference, but it is fun to joke about throwing down the goblet.
There was a form of punishment in British fighting where the person had to run up and down two rows of men that would whip and beat him. It was quite violent as the man running up and down the rows of men was stripped to the waist. It could be so violent that the man punished could even die from this punishment. People assume that gauntlets were worn by the people issuing the punishment. However, this is not true.
The reason that Craig Ferguson used the phrase is because the bullies in Scotland had made him “run the gauntlet” as they would form the two lines of men and beat up the person they were bullying.
Instead, the phrase “run the gauntlet” comes from the original name of this punishment, “run the gantelope” or “run the gantlope.” Gantelope or gantlope is an Anglicized form of the Swedish word gatlop or gatu-lop. The “gatlop” was the name for the gate of soldiers or knights created by the two rows of people.
Because gantelope or gantlope sounds close to gauntlet, the two got confused easily and the phrase became “run the gauntlet.”
Martin, G. (n.d.). Run the gauntlet. The meanings and origins of sayings and phrases | List of sayings | English sayings | Idiom definitions | Idiom examples | Idiom origins | List of idioms | Idiom dictionary | Meaning of idioms. Retrieved August 2, 2010, from http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/run-the-gauntlet.html