[lit-ideas] Re: Whinger... (Was: Thinks...)

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 01 Jun 2004 11:59:05 -0700

on 6/1/04 10:21 AM, Andreas Ramos at andreas@xxxxxxxxxxx wrote:

> It's odd. There's whine, and it's perfectly good form whiner. Why would
> anyone take whinge and turn that into whinger?

"Whinging" sounds better when Scots pronounce it.  "Whun-jing."

See Alexander Warrack, "The Scots Dialect Dictionary," which confirms what
JLS wrote, "whinge": "to whine, to cry fretfully and peevishly, to whimper
as a dog."  A whinger is one who whinges.  Paradoxically, he may be silenced
with a "whinger," "a short dagger, used as a knife at meals and also as a
weapon.  Also, a sword."

(Clan chief to man at Bannockburn, "Stop your whinging and draw your
whinger, thon's only the English on bluddy great horses.")

The same dictionary has no entry for "swot."

Partridge, however, says that the earliest reference to "swot" or "swat" may
have come from a Royal Military Academy professor's pronunciation of
"sweat."  From 1845-95 "swat" or "swot" was synonymous with mathematics.
Public schools and universities extended the meaning to include anything
that was hard to study, and the act itself--studying until you sweat.

Being "in a swot," meant--at Shrewsbury school--being "in a rage" or angry
to the point that beads of sweat get squeezed out.

To "swot" up or "mug" up is rare before the twentieth century, but then
becomes common.  "Mugging up" developed about the same time as "swotting
up."  It refers to theatrical preparations--preparing one's face for test or

The piece of my writing that seemed so inpenetrable to Julie was, once
again, a reference to Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle, "Molesworth."
Such references have, in recent times, irked Stephen Straker and possibly
others.  When I find my copy of "Austerlitz," I shall read it in penance.
Maybe Mike will be kind enough to supply some coaching on how this penance
business goes and, should I slip into a whinge, Erin can make ready with the
reviving wine?

David Ritchie
Portland, Oregon

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