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

Sat Feb 23 14:23:38 UTC 2013

This obscure poem has a striking resemblance to If Ever I Would Leave You, from Camelot.  I wonder if Alan Jay Lerner was somehow aware of it.  Or was there some kind of literary tradition of writing poems or songs in this style?

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of ADSGarson O'Toole
Sent: Friday, February 22, 2013 10:46 PM
Subject: Re: "to sweat [something] out" -- 146-year antedating, I hope

Below is an instance in 1855 where "sweat it out" means to persevere, wait, delay, I think. But the setting is summer, so the phrase also comically references physical sweating. The OED gloss mentions anxiety which is muted in this example.

[ref] 1855 August 25, Supplement to the Courant, Volume 20, Number 19,
Section: Poetry, Poem: I Would Not Die at All, Quote Page 145, Column 1, Published by Thomas M. Day, Hartford, Connecticut. (Google Books full view)


[Begin excerpt]

I Would Not Die at All

(Second stanza)

I would not die in summer,
When trees are filled with fruit
And every sportsman has a gun,
The little birds to shoot,
The girls then wear the bloomer dress,
And half distract the men,
It is the time to sweat it out,
I would not perish then.

[End excerpt]

The other stanzas help to clarify the intention of the poem.


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