Don’t Sweat It!

"Don’t sweat it!" What does that mean? This expression recently showed up in an article about how to attend your company's picnic.  The writer's advice: don't sweat the details and have a good time.

“Sweat” is an informal word for perspiration—when water comes out of your skin.  This can come from hard work or exercise.  Or it can come from nervousness.

If you are nervous, your American friends may tell you, “Don’t sweat it.”  If they say this, they mean, “Don’t worry; everything will be fine.”  (Note: this is an informal expression that would be too casual to use with your boss, customers, or strangers.)

Supermarket display in the personal care section  (photo: A. Headbloom)

Supermarket display in the personal care section

(photo: A. Headbloom)

This display for men’s antiperspirant uses the word “sweat” in a double meaning.  The company believes its product will reduce how much you perspire.  And they don’t want you to worry about it.

Ask your American friends for examples of when they would say, "Don't sweat it."



New Vocabulary and Pronunciationsweat = informal for perspiration [rhymes with "wet"] deodorant = a scent applied to the underarms (and sometimes elsewhere) to cover the odor of bacteria that naturally form in moist places anti-perspirant = personal hygiene material applied to the underarm to block pores from perspiring (and therefore reduce underarm moisture); may be scented or unscented Don't sweat the small stuff. = Don't worry about little things; keep focused on big-picture, high-priority issues. (A book with this title was published many years ago.)



Cultural Note The American belief in privacy goes beyond individual space and property. U.S. Americans also prefer that others keep sounds and smells to themselves.  Don't let your music invade my space, that is, turn down your radio!  And control your emissions of odors, that is, I don't want to take in your human smells!  This includes bad breath, body odor (also called "B.O.") from the underarms, foot odor, and others. Note how much shelf space is given to personal hygiene products in American supermarkets and pharmacies. 

If you don't shower daily and use masking scents, powders, or sprays, your co-workers may complain about you to the human resources officer, creating an awkward conversation for both of you.  Bottom line: if you work with Americans, I recommend you adapt your hygiene habits, unless you want to eat alone in the cafeteria!