23rd July 2017
Apropos of Britain’s divorce from the EU, Boris Johnson recently went on the charm offensive and suggested to EU leaders that they can ‘go whistle’.
Or, put another way, if they think they’re getting a hefty alimony pay-out from Britain they can think again.
This article from The Guardian, tells all on that.
In modern parlance then ‘go whistle’ is tantamount to telling those EU leaders to get lost, and that we have no intention of doing what they want. Whether they accept that is another matter.
As we know though, language evolves. Which is why you’ll not be at all surprised to know that the phrase’s original dictionary definition was somewhat different. As this article on the Virtual Linguist explains:
‘The first citation in the OED for the phrase go whistle dates from the 1450s:
“If eny man pretende so greet a curiosite anentis þe persoon of crist þat he lackid þe passioun of angir, he may go whistle til he leerne bettir.” Translated what we’re looking at there is ‘to go and do what one will, to occupy oneself idly or to no purpose’
Our own William Shakespeare was a great user and creator of language. So you can bet your last EU alimony payment that he used the phrase go whistle.
It was common for WS to be less than polite about the law and the legal profession in general. Which is why in ‘The Winter’s Tale’, the shepherd’s buffoon of a son exclaims: ‘Let the law go whistle’.
The Navy Lark
The early definition of the phrase has a connection with a long-standing and common naval superstition. When a ship became becalmed and not making headway the sailors would whistle for a wind.
By extension, there was a belief that whistling in windy conditions was a no-no. The sailors believed that their whistling would make a wind turn into a gale. And of course, no-one on a ship wants gale force conditions.
The Royal Navy website notes whistling as a formal sign of mutiny. No whistling while you worked in the navy then! Unless you were the cook in which case it was positively encouraged – that way they knew you weren’t eating as you cooked.
Whistle while you work
I have to confess I’m hopeless at whistling. But I AM good at proofreading, proof-editing, researching and constructing an argument. I didn’t get that 1st class English degree ( 3 years this coming week since I graduated) for nothing you know! 😉
Ergo, should you need help with business blogging and article writing I can help in two ways:
- You write it yourself and send it to me to health check and titivate.
- We sit down together and work out a blogging schedule of subjects that I’ll then research and write about on your behalf – which you can then publish on your website.
In either event YOUR words are MY work.
So, if you can’t write, don’t want to write or are simply too busy to write – all you have to do is whistle.
Failing that drop me an email at: email@example.com or call me on 07732681881 or there’s my contact form here: https://www.aaedits.co.uk/contact/