phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Home | Search the website Search | Discussion Forum Home|


Posted by R. Berg on March 15, 2003

In Reply to: sweatin' posted by ESC on March 15, 2003

: : :
: : : What is the origin of "sweatin' like a [n-word] on election day" ?

: : : Why would a negro sweat on election day?

: : This is a guess, but it probably has to do with the intimidation black voters common throughout the American South from emancipation up to the civil rights movement. Shadey legal practices like poll taxes and literacy tests were common. Polling stations mysteriously disappeared and gangs of racist thugs threatened potential voters with violence or death.

: Every time a question involving race comes up, it causes a big brawl. But I'm going to give my opinion anyway. I'm guessing this expression is older than the voting turmoil in the 60s when black Americans struggled for the right to vote. I believe it's because election day had a carnival atmosphere and everyone was excited to be at a public gathering. Black people wouldn't be sweating anymore than white people. But sweat shows up on dark skin more, giving the appearance of copious sweating.

There's a historical explanation, but it's neither of those. Eric Partridge, "A Dictionary of Catch Phrases American and British":
'sweating like a n****r at an election' predates WW2 and refers to the practice of taking Blacks to numerous polling places, for the purpose of 'stuffing' the ballot box -- hence the fear of being found out: US: very approx., 1880-1930. (George Krzymowski of New Orleans, 1978.) Cf 'vote early and often.'