Flop sweat [slight antedating to 1947]

Bonnie Taylor-Blake b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM
Fri Feb 15 19:15:48 UTC 2013

Marco Rubio's recent performance in the Republican Party's response to
the President's State of the Union address caused some political
pundits to resurrect "flop sweat," which Merriam-Webster describes as
"nervous sweat (as of a performer) caused especially by the fear of

M-W also mentions a first reported sighting in 1953.  Here are a few
earlier instances of its use.  (I wouldn't be surprised if some of you
with access to Variety, for example, can antedate this further.)  By
the way, "flop sweat" doesn't seem to appear in OED.

-- Bonnie


Billy Vine, covered with flop sweat, started so-so, but in a few
minutes he had them.  [From "Night Club Reviews; Rio Cabana, New York,
Thursday, March 6," The Billboard, 15 March 1947, p. 36.]

"Flop-sweat" is the perspiration glistening on a comedian's brow when
he tells jokes that die.  [From Earl Wilson, "Hey-Hey Again ...," The
Zanesville [Ohio] Times Recorder, 14 May 1947, p. 4.]

[Jack Benny on Bob Hope] "Bob Hope has a pace and brashness I envy.
But I know that I'd be floundering in 'flop-sweat' if I tried Bob's
delivery.  I do flatter myself into thinking Hope can't get as much
out of a "Well!!!' as I do."  [From John Crosby, "Benny Whacks the
Critics," The Washington Post, 9 January 1949, p. L1.]

[Frank Fay on television]  "Even a good actor will find it difficult
-- and I don't care how big he is either.  If someone next to him
happens to have 'it' and more of 'it' than he has -- brother, look
out!  Then watch what Charley Foy calls the 'flop sweat' stand out on
the actor's brow."  [From Philip K. Scheuer, "Fay Let Rabbit 'Out'
Only Once," Los Angeles Times, 12 June 1949, p. D1.]

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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