Idiom "sweat bullets"-----influence of German?

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sun Sep 3 03:16:02 UTC 2006

>A NewspaperArchive cite from 1936 is available.  So that takes out the
>probability of a US soldier from WWII.

And the way it was used in 1936 was the same as the modern way, without
explanation or quotation marks, suggesting that it was already widely

"Sweating blood" has been used in essentially the same way in English for a
long time (at least since pre-1900) and I suppose "blood" >"bullets" seems
just about as likely as "Blut" > "bullets". Neither one all that likely,
IMHO ... although some things which seem unlikely are nonetheless true ....

An alternative notion (only a notion): "sweating bullets" < *["sweating
bullish(ly)" or "sweating bull-like" or whatever] < "sweating like a bull".
Of course the last is usual since the old days.

Another alternative notion: "bullets" taken from the expression "looking
bullets" = "looking with hostility" [old] under the assumption "bullets" =
"fiercely" or so.

Another: sweat drops (flying out of a cartoon character) likened to
[machine-gun] bullets.

-- Doug Wilson

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