Posted by Smokey Stover on May 23, 2006
In Reply to: "Barn burner" Posted by Laura vH on May 23, 2006
: Where did the term "barn burner" come from as when a sports game is a close game?
The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary gives us: "barn burner...: one that arouses much interest or excitement ". In the old days the burning of a barn was undeniably an exciting event. I've seen the term used for other exciting events, like close elections.
Another definitioin of barn burner, naturally, is "one who burns barns, or burnt at least one."
If you have a taste for history you'll enjoy the following explanation: "The Barnburners were a liberal faction of the New York state United States Democratic Party in the mid 19th century. The term barnburner was derived from the idea of someone who would burn down his own barn to get rid of a rat infestation.
The Barnburners opposed the extension of slavery, expanding public debt, and the power of the large corporations. They were led by Martin Van Buren, and in the 1848 presidential election they bolted the party, refusing to support presidential nominee Lewis Cass, and instead joining with other anti-slavery groups to form the Free Soil Party, which would nominate Van Buren for president."
See The Free Dictionary Online at