Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Whine


Whine

English boasts some wonderful words having to do with complaints.

The word whine has been with us since English became English. In Old English it had two uses: to refer to arrows as they hissed or whistled through the air, & to refer to a dog’s whines (an imitative word). In 1520 whine added the meaning to complain in a feeble or annoying fashion.

The same Old English roots gave us the word whinge, to complain peevishly. A British dialectical term born in the 1500s, whinge has made its way across the Pond. I hope others appreciate its trans-Atlantic voyage as much as I do.

Beginning in 1888 in England a complaint could be referred to as a beef. Etymologists suggest this probably came from British soldiers’ complaints regarding the mystery meat their superiors were claiming was beef.

The term belly-ache, meaning stomach pain appeared in the 1590s. It picked up the figurative meaning to complain in 1888. Interestingly, the first recorded uses of belly-ache in America reflected the figurative meaning of the term.

In 1825 an English word meaning to gnaw came into use. Within only three years it picked up the meaning to complain. This word is nag, which appears to have come from a Scandinavian source. It seems to have no etymological relationship to the word nag meaning old horse, which came from Dutch.

The English verb kvetch, to complain, made its way to us in 1953 (the noun, meaning a chronic complainer arrived before that in 1936). The original literal Yiddish verb’s meaning was to squeeze or press.

I’m hoping you’ve got something to say about all these kvetch-worthy words. If so, please leave a note in the comments section.



Big thanks to this week’s sources: Etymonline, Wordnik, Merriam-Webster & the OED

5 comments:

  1. I LOVE the word whinge. I'm so glad it's making its way over here. It sounds so much weightier than a simple whine. "Kvetch" is a wonderful word, too. It has a grating sound that works perfectly with the meaning.

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  2. in the right situation nag is not only a horse, but it is also a person. For example to say "Helen is such an nag" doesn't describe her physical characteristics of looking like a horse but rather her behavioral characteristics of being a complainer or an annoying person.

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  3. in the right situation nag is not only a horse, but it is also a person. For example to say "Helen is such an nag" doesn't describe her physical characteristics of looking like a horse but rather her behavioral characteristics of being a complainer or an annoying person.

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  4. I love whinge. Never heard it before. I wonder if I'll be able to remember it and use it in public. Wouldn't people be impressed. Well, maybe not the person I said it too; "Don't be such a whinger." Ha! It actually sounds very British. Interesting change in the word kvetch. From squeeze to complain. Hmmmm.

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  5. Hey Christine, Colin, & Anne,
    Thanks for coming by. I agree re: whinge -- too good a word to ignore. And nag is a word of many meanings - thankfully, none of you are the sort to kvetch about such things.

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