sweating like a horse / sweating like a pig

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sweating like a horse / sweating like a pig

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Feb 12, 2016 5:47 am

<“He was sweating like a horse. As cold as it had been at the scene, it was equally hot in the interview room.”—The 9th Girl by Tami Hoag, page 13>
I’ve always heard it as sweating like a pig. The meaning of both is the same – perspiring profusely.]

A Google search produced:

sweating like a horse: 18,300
sweating like a pig: 134,000

I actually never heard anyone say ‘sweating like a horse’ (the author is not British!) although a horse does sweat after a hard workout (thus the blanket). But I can’t even visualize the slow-moving pig sweating.

Very odd that the expression and the derivation of ‘sweating like a pig’ didn’t show up in any slang/idiom dictionaries I checked:

SWEATING LIKE A PIG’ to denote sweating profusely. This sounds illogical, as pigs have ineffective sweat glands, but the term is allegedly derived from the iron smelting process. After pouring into runners in sand, it is allowed to cool and is seen as resembling a sow and piglets, hence ‘pig iron.’ As the pigs [[ingots]] cool, the surrounding air reaches its dew point, and beads of moisture form on the surface of the pigs. ‘Sweating like a pig’ indicates that the pig has cooled enough to be moved in safety.
On a website called NEATORMA (couldn’t find original source of the quote [see italics]), I found:
Pigs don't sweat much, so they wallow in the mud to cool off their bodies. So how did the English language expression ‘sweating like a pig’ develop? It's actually a reference to pig iron, which is form of iron smelting:

When pig iron is originally created from iron ore [[in pigs/ingots]], the smelter needs to heat the ore to extreme temperatures, and then move the liquid metal into the mold. Until the liquid cools, it can't be safely moved, as the extremely hot metal is liable to spill, burning whatever it comes in contact with.

How does the smelter know when the metal is cool enough to transport? When the ‘pigs’ ‘sweat. As the metal cools, the air around it reaches the dew point, causing droplets to form on the metal's surface.
I can’t help but hear Johnny Cash (1957) or the fast-paced Lonnie Donegan(1955) version (love those lyrics)
singing Rock Island Line when I hear ‘pig iron’:
Now this here's a story about the Rock Island Line
Well the Rock Island Line she runs down into New Orleans
There's a big tollgate down there and you know
If you got certain things on board when you go through the tollgate
Well you don't have to pay the man no toll
Well a train driver he pulled up to the tollgate
And a man hollered and asked him what all he had on board and said

I got livestock
I got livestock
I got cows
I got pigs
I got sheep
I got mules
I got all live stock

Well he said you're alright boy you don't have to pay no toll
You can just go right on through so he went on through the tollgate
And as he went through he started pickin' up a little bit of speed
Pickin' up a little bit of steam
He got on through he turned and looked back at the man he said

Well I fooled you
I fooled you
I got pigiron
I got pigiron
I got old pigiron


Down the Rock Island Line she's a mighty good road
Rock Island Line it's the road to ride
Rock Island Line it's a mighty good road
Well if you ride it you got to ride it like you find it
Get your ticket at the station for the Rock Island Line

Looked cloudy in the west and it looked like rain
Round the curve came a passenger train
North bound train on a southbound track
He's alright a leavin' but he won't be back


Oh I may be right and I may be wrong
But you're gonna miss me when I'm gone
Well the engineer said before he died
There were two more drinks that he'd like to try
The conductor said what could they be
A hot cup of coffee and a cold glass of tea


The following quotes are from archived sources:

<1988 “At Navy Pier, where Festa Italiana was in its third and final day, Jamie Bridgeman of Oak Lawn stretched his arms to the sky. ‘This is great, man,’ he said. "You can act like a human being out here, instead of sweating like a pig."—Chicago Sun-Times (Illinois), 22 August>

<1998 “‘I'm overdressed,’ Ingram said . . . ‘I'm sweating like a pig.’”—Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 11 January>

<2008 “ But all too soon I was sweating like a pig in a blanket, panting like a dog on heat and shaking like a . . . well, you get the picture.”—Liverpool Echo (England), 7 February>

<2015 “At the North Pole Bar and Grille: ‘Hi, Santa! Welcome back from your Christmas Eve rounds. You want your usual cup of cocoa?’ ‘No thanks, Hermey. It was hot out there, and I was sweating like a pig going down those chimneys. Just give me a Diet Mountain Dew on the rocks.’ ‘Coming right up, Santa.’”—Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Pennsylvania), 24 December>

Sweating like a horse:

<2002 “"And you, sir, are done!" chirps Bill, at long last. I hand him the barbells. I'm sweating like a horse. He asks how I feel. I trot out the oldest standby of all: ‘Compared to what, . . .?’”—The Washington Post (D.C.), 23 April>

<2010 “The idea, . . . is to make a performance seem as effortless as possible - to look like a swan even if already gasping for breath and sweating like a horse."—Manila Bulletin (Philippines), 4 July>

<2015 “Rousey is a pretty woman—when she's not bruised and grimacing and sweating like a horse . . .”—Chicago Sun-Time (Illinois), 21 July>

Ken G – February 11, 2016

Re: sweating like a horse / sweating like a pig

Post by Bobinwales » Sun Feb 14, 2016 1:13 am

There is an expression that used to be common when I was a boy, a long, long, long time ago,
"Horses sweat. Gentlemen perspire. Ladies glow".
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: sweating like a horse / sweating like a pig

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sun Feb 14, 2016 2:07 pm

Wonderful research Ken and wonderful retort Bob.

WoZ who just sweats and stinks
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

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