a sweep like you t' throw in a man's teeth about a bit o' horse-stealin'

alikhazaee

Member
Persian
Dear Members: reading this Australian short story I have come across this sentence. I appreciate it if you explain what this sentence means because I had no clue where to search for the meaning: "Get off my property... A sweep like you t' throw about a bit o' horse-stealin'. Get out, yeh loafer!"
 
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Please tell us which phrase you are asking about - the phrase in the thread title, or the one you have quoted in your post.
     

    alikhazaee

    Member
    Persian
    I am sorry for the confusion. What I don't understand is this sentence: "A sweep like you t' throw about a bit o' horse-stealin'".
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Dear Members: reading this Australian short story I have come across this sentence. I appreciate it if you explain what this sentence means because I had no clue where to search for the meaning: "Get off my property... A sweep like you t' throw about a bit o' horse-stealin'. Get out, yeh loafer!"
    It means Will you please go away. The register is low-Australian, if I am any judge.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I am sorry for the confusion. What I don't understand is this sentence: "A sweep like you t' throw about a bit o' horse-stealin'".
    So you're not asking about "throwing something in someone's teeth" after all? Can you give us the title and author of the story please?
     

    alikhazaee

    Member
    Persian
    I am sorry I missed "a man's teeth" in the previous post. Hope it is clear now what I don't understand? It is actually the meaning of the phrase "a sweep like you t' throw in a man's teeth about a bit o' horse-stealin'"
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Our own dictionary gives this definition (search under "teeth") :

    cast or throw in someone's teeth,
    to reproach someone for (an action):
    History will ever throw this blunder in his teeth.

    The speaker is apparently angry at being accused of horse-stealing, but with no source or context it's difficult to give an accurate answer to your question.

     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It's in the thread title, which is what I usually go on if there's a discrepancy or I'm not sure what the question is.:)
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Clearly 'a sweep' is regarded as an opprobrious epithet in this context, and I'm not clear of the nature of the insult suggested.

    We have one serious, but inconclusive, thread on the subject -

    'sweep' as noun [Your sweep's leaving.]

    The Urban Dictionary makes its usual riotously obscene suggestions, but includes 'the female in a relationship' - I'm going to the party with my sweep (or something similar).

    Perhaps then the suggestion is of effeminacy, though I incline to the idea that it refers to a 'sweep', a chimney-sweep, so the reproach is about lack of social distinction, added perhaps to juvenility, and impecuniousness.

    Maybe it's linked to the word 'scrubber', on which the Urban Dictionary is more helpful: "Scrubber" is probably of British origin, used as a detrogatory term to describe scullery maids or other low-ranking women in domestic service. These were often young women viewed by higher-ranking people as licentious and dirty (particularly their hands). Due to the lack of occupations for women in the 19th and early 20th century women usually were forced to work in service or as prostitutes, and many had dealings with both. The actual term "scrubber" may refer either to her occupation of scouring floors, or to the actual implement used to clean the floor - the scrubbing brush.

    In my experience 'scrubbers' are irretrievably female, yet the person addressed in the OP is probably male, if I am any judge, so maybe that is a false trail. Chimney-sweeps were male and young (6 - 14 or so). They had to be small to be able to get up the confined spaces. It was clearly a terrible job because they operated naked and soot is carcenogenic; cancer of the scrotum was a common disease among the poor children.

    I'd welcome further suggestions.
     
    Last edited:

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    The OED has this definition of sweep:

    VI. One who sweeps (and derived senses).
    33. c. A disreputable person; a scamp, blackguard. slang and dialect.

    1888 W. E. Norris Chris vi Fancy making up to a drunken sweep like that just because he has a few thousands a year!

    1903 J. S. Farmer & W. E. Henley Slang VII. i. 42/1 Sweep..A term of contempt: e.g. ‘What a sweep the man is’; ‘You dirty sweep’.​
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think this is probably right. The term has become a general term of abuse.

    I had a friend here in England called Montgomery who went to work for a while as a teacher in a smart American boarding school for boys. The school made him a 'dormitory master' and he told me that at a 'dormitory meeting' he had asked the boys not to write their speculations about his sexual tastes on the walls - someone had written 'MONTY IS A FAG'.

    A boy who had assumed the role of guardian to Monty, a friendly self-appointed guide to the complexities of youthful American society, explained to him after the meeting that he was wrong to think that the comment had anything to do with his supposed sexual orientation, but was just a 'general term of abuse'. Monty was rather amused and touched by these words of comfort.

    Maybe in a similar way a 'sweep' has lost any connection with its origins.
     
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