Yesterday our air quit working. I had been painting all day, and was “hot” anyway so did not notice it seemed rather warm in the house. However, as soon as my husband walked in the door around 5:30 PM, he checked the thermostat and discovered the air was not working. We did everything WE knew to do, and then knuckled down for a long night.
I posted on Facebook the fact that our air wasn’t working. Misery loves company, right? Actually a couple in our church just had their air conditioner fixed THIS WEEK. Rick commented on my status and mentioned something about having “sweated bullets” the night they had to wait out the repairman.
“Sweating bullets“? As soon as I saw it typed there I knew it was wrong and was seconds away from allowing my fingertips to “tease him mercilessly” about the mistake. Something in me paused though. I decided that before I teased him about using the phrase “sweating bullets” instead of the correct form “sweating pullets”, I’d better look it up and see where the phrase came from in the first place.
Well of course there is no such phrase. Rick was right. I was stumped.
Hearing it Wrong my Whole Life
Although I didn’t become completely deaf until the age of 37 after twelve years of progressive hearing loss, I have had a slight hearing loss most of my life due to a pedestrian-car accident as a child. I had never SEEN the phrase written out. I had only HEARD the phrase a great deal.
As I tried to digest how in the world I got this phrase wrong my entire life, I realized there were several factors involved:
1. I had a hearing loss and “heard” the phrase sweating pullets.
2. I was raised on a farm and we had chickens.
3. In CONTEXT, the phrase was used in conjunction with: feeling afraid, anxiety, “scared to death”, feeling “chicken”
4. pullet = chicken
It made PERFECT sense to me!
Gulp. Ok the REAL Meaning?
From “Answer.com” the real meaning of this idiom is:
Perspire profusely; also, suffer mental anguish. For example, We were sweating bullets, sitting in the sun through all those graduation speeches, or It was their first baby, and David was sweating bullets while Karen was in labor. The bullets in this expression allude to drops of perspiration the size of bullets. [Slang; mid-1900s]
But ya know? This just doesn’t jive with me! I mean… who first saw large drops of sweat pouring off someone’s face and equated the size with bullets? Why bullets? Why not marbles? How about ear plugs? Huh? (sigh)
It’s really difficult to re-train my thinking. All my life I have heard “SWEATING PULLETS” and it meant “chicken, scared to death”.
Just to be safe I went to look up “fraidy cat”. After all, I may have been hearing it wrong. For all I knew it was really, “frayed kneecap”.
© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal