Sweating bullets

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6 comments on this post.
  1. Sweating bullets « The Word Detective | Hyperhidrosis - How To Stop Sweating:

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  2. Yobgod Ababua:

    I wonder if the phrase “sweating bullets” came about, not linguistically, but from the longstanding practice among cartoonists of illustrating the condition of anxiety by drawing bullet-like droplets radiating out from the character. This could have led to people referring to themselves (or others) as “sweating bullets” in reference to how they would presumably be drawn in comic form due to their state.

    As an example, see the following (from 1937):
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f4/Alley1937oop.jpg

  3. Mike:

    Seems to me this refers not to sweating at all, but to being nervous, which is often associated with sweating. Sweating is a process that involves heating metal for binding or unbinding purposes. If one where heating a bullet for that purpose — “sweating” a bullet — one would be terribly nervous. So to say “he’s sweating bullets” is to say, quite simply, “he is nervous as a man applying heat to bullets, which could make them explode in his hands.”

  4. Andrew:

    Back in the 1800′s, ammunition for muskets was made by dropping molten lead off of a tower, called a “shot tower” . I just recently came to the conclusion that the expression “sweating bullets” was related to this, in that you are sweating so much that droplets are rolling off of you, and falling, as if you were a shot tower. I have no idea if this is correct, but it seems to make sense to me.

  5. Ramona Thompson:

    I’ve been looking for “sweating bullets” for a long time. Would be interested in knowing
    documentation of the first known print use.

  6. David Thompson:

    It means to be afraid! Ex. One person says to another they are being threatened by(I don’t sweat you!) However, Everyone is afraid of bullets. I’m not afraid of many things but I do sweat bullets!!!

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