"to sweat [something] out" -- 146-year antedating, I hope

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Feb 23 03:04:34 UTC 2013

I think Boylston means not to "endure it" but to to "get rid of it" through
feverish effort.

There's a much more persuasive ex. from 1866 in HDAS III or IV.  Ask for it
at your extra-dimensional booksellers!

There's also one from 1929.  Whatever its early history, the phrase became
a familiar cliche' only during WWII, app. via the AAF.


On Fri, Feb 22, 2013 at 5:30 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      "to sweat [something] out" -- 146-year antedating, I hope
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Acknowledging that sweat, v., "has not yet been
> fully updated (first published 1918)."
> "But for those who out of private Piques or
> Views, have exclaim'd and railed against it
> [smallpox inoculation], and who have trumpt up
> the groundless ill Consequences that would attend
> or follow it: Such I leave to sweat it out with
> just Reflection and due Repentance."
> Zabdiel Boylston, _An Historical Account of the
> Small-Pox Inoculated in New England [etc.]_, The
> Second Edition, Corrected. Re-Printed at Boston
> for S. Gerrrish and T. Hancock, 1730.  Preface, vi.
> "sweat, v." 9.b "trans. With out, to await or
> endure anxiously or with unease. Esp. in phr. to
> sweat it out . colloq.", antedates 1876-- ('M. Twain').
> There is the earlier (1592--) sense 2.b.
> (trans.?) "fig. To give forth or get rid of as by
> sweating; slang, to spend, lay out (money). Also
> with away, out.", for which the OED has
> "c1610–15   tr. St. Augustine Life St. Monica in
> C. Horstmann Lives Women Saints (1886) 140,   I
> could not sweate out from my hart that bitternes
> of sorrow."  But I think Boylston's quote does
> not have the connotation of "to emit" something,
> rather of time passing and the world accepting
> inoculation despite the views of its opponenet.
> There are a few earlier instances of
> "sweat/sweated/sweating it out" in GBooks, but
> they all seem to be literal, e.g. in the context
> of illness.  For example, the OED has under sense
> 1.a "1700  Dryden Chaucer's Cock & Fox in Fables
> 224   With Exercise she sweat ill Humors out."
> However, since the form is "sweat [something]
> out", it seems difficult to search for a figurative instance.
> Joel
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