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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Senseless Babbling


The English language is full of odd sayings and phrases that have remained in use over the years. Some of these make sense...(like smooth as a baby's bottom, squeaky clean, etc.)

Some phrases are used so often that you don't really think about where they may have come from... So today, while sitting at work trying to find a way to keep my eyes open while staring at my computer, a certain phrase popped randomly into my head. "Clean as a whistle." For some odd reason, I actually thought to myself that that makes no sense...Are whistles really clean? They're in someone's mouth half the time, and fill up with saliva. Does anyone ever wash a whistle? Where did this bizarre phrase come from?

Um, yeah, so I looked it up, and found this. (You'll have to scroll down the page a bit to get to it.) Nice to know I'm not the only one who has wasted time thinking about this! And to prove that even more people have pondered this whistle issue, I found this too. (Just to clarify, I actually didn't look this up at work, but did start thinking about it there...)

Anyway, obviously, work is stressing me out, and my mind is beginning to wander...

8 comments:

Mom said...

I always thought it referred to the clear sharp notes you make with your mouth, like the 7 dwarfs when the "whistled while they worked". Thus the sound was clear and clean having touched nothing but the makers mouth ( I never thought it meant a metal or wooden whistle.) And now that I know you think about these things I know that YOU ARE SO LIKE ME!

Tami said...

There is no escaping it mother!!

Cate said...

When I was a little kid, there was a commercial for Irish Spring soap that used that phrase, and there was a man who sliced off a sliver of soap with a penknife. As he sliced, there was a whistle (sound), presumably made by the soap, but that part is less clear in my mind. Thus illustrated, I always considered the phrase the same way your mom does. :)

D.T. said...

That's so weird you were thinking about the orgins of word phrases yesterday, because, so was I! Yeah. I wanted to know where the phrase "dressed to the nines" came from, and I found out, it doesnt really have a background or mean anything, other than this soldier crap I didnt really understand. So weird...

Tami said...

Hmm...this link included "dressed to the nines" but is all pretty theoretical.

http://www.word-detective.com/back-f.html

As for me, I had never even thought of the whistle thing as simply the noise made from one's mouth. Go figure.

Christyn said...

Funny you were talking about this word association thing b/c our friend came over for dinner last week, and he mentioned he used to have this book that had all the orgins of phrases we commonly use...like "clean as a whistle," "dressed to the nines," etc. I haven't been able to locate it for him..even though my nikname at work is Google! LOL. I think I'm getting rusty!

Fluffycat said...

i remember that irish spring commercial too. i always thought if you were so clean, and would run your hand down your arm, you would hear a squeaky or whistly noise.

Thomas said...

Is there room for senseless commenting?