Chrysti the Wordsmith: Blood, Sweat and Tears (photo)

The phrase “blood, sweat and tears” is a verbal shortcut to describe the effects of difficult, backbreaking work or enormous effort.

The expression comes most recently and famously from a speech given by Sir Winston Churchill as Britain’s new Prime Minister on May 13, 1940. On the eve of the Second World War, Churchill stood before the House of Commons and rallied the members with these words, “I say to the House…I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering.”

Though Churchill certainly made it popular, the expression predates the Prime Minister by several centuries. English poet John Donne, in his 1611 poem “An Anatomy of the World,” wrote, “Mollify [this world] with thy tears, thy sweat, or blood.” In 1919, British poet Lord Alfred Douglas said “[Poetry] is forged slowly and patiently, link by link, with sweat and blood and tears.” The three words are brief but potent: they represent the life fluids of a human in great exertion.

Baby boomers will surely be reminded of the 1970’s band Blood Sweat and Tears whose name was inspired by the words of bygone literary and political luminaries.