May-day sweep

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See also: May Day sweep


Alternative forms[edit]


May Day (workers' spring holiday) + sweep (shortening of chimney sweep)



May-day sweep (plural May-day sweeps)

  1. (largely historical) One of the sweeps (chimney sweeps), clad in bright clothes and garlands and carrying a blackened broom, in a May Day parade.
    • 1823, in the New Monthly Magazine, volume 8, page 355 [1]:
      The common herd of mortals invent excuses : they shuffle like a May-day sweep, and lie like the prospectus of a new Magazine.
    • 1829, W. Brockedon, The Passes of the Alps, printed in The London Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, page 345 [2]:
      [] preceded by a drum and fife, and followed by the successful marksman, who, dressed out with flowers and ribands as fantastically as a May-day sweep in England, expressed his joy by dancing and pirouetting amidst his friends, who congratulated and cheered him.
    • 1843, in Punch, volume 5, page 158:
      Thanks to certain alchemic pens, which have touched even garbage to gold-paper, murder has been as fine, and withal as jocund among us, as a May-day sweep.
    • 1847, in Littell's Living Age, volume 12, page 296 [3]:
      Brown and Emily Bustleton are whirling round as light as two pigeons over a dove-cot; Tozer, with that wicked whisking little Jones, spins along as merrily as a May-day sweep; Miss Joy is The partner of the happy Fred.
    • 1876, Lady Barker, The Kafir at Home, printed in The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art, volume 23 (87?), page 221 [4]:
      [] but anything would have been better than sitting at table with a thing only fit for a May-day sweep on one's head.