August 24th, 2017

I’m going to whine about something

And it’s the overuse of the word “whine.”

I’ve noticed that whine is employed a great deal in political discourse, both on this blog and elsewhere. It’s ordinarily used to describe—and trivialize—a complaint by people with whom you don’t agree. Whether the complaint is justified or not doesn’t seem to matter. The actual tone of voice (which, after all, is the origin of the term “whine”) of the person doing the complaining doesn’t matter and ordinarily is not even heard, because most of the time we only have written words without speech.

Children whine a lot. They whine in particular when they don’t get their way. That’s why accusing someone of whining is also accusing that person (more subtly) of being juvenile and demanding. Another implication is that the person’s concern is fairly trivial and that the person’s complaint is unfocused and inarticulate, just one big and grating wail.

Here’s the way dogs do it (the video can’t be embedded, so you have to click on it). Careful; that sound might just drive you nuts, because in addition to all the rest, whining tends to be annoying.

Sometimes “whining” really is the correct word for a complaint, though. I’ve used it myself on occasion. If the whiner is being overly sensitive and is complaining about something trivial, something that objectively speaking isn’t that big a deal or something that wouldn’t bother the average person, or not being at all specific about the complaints, then it just might be that “whine” fits the bill.

But mere complaining or critiquing is not whining. And of course, I, neo, never whine, except when I announce that I’m doing it, as here.

[NOTE: By the way, while researching this post I discovered that “whining” also refers to a form of sexy dancing (click on the link to see short videos):

Whine is defined by a Caribbean dance expert as the thrusting or rotating of the pelvic girdle in a rhythmic pattern.

In the context of Caribbean culture, whine is a genuine regional dance form…

Take whining as a graceful or aggressive gyration of the buttocks. Unlike twerking, whining relies more on the waist giving off a fluid movement.

When I was young there were several popular dances that primarily used pelvic movements. The Twist comes to mind, of course, as well as the Jerk. But although they clearly were sexy dances, particularly compared to what preceded them, they were not as overtly sexual as today’s twerk and whine.

Here’s the mid-60s Jerk:

And the early 60s Twist:

Or maybe it was just that the times in which they were embedded were more innocent than today.]

20 Responses to “I’m going to whine about something”

  1. vanderleun Says:

    Good job. And you did it without whining. To me “No Whining” = “WINNING!”

    Now go to work on “Awesome”

    http://americandigest.org/mt-archives/american_studies/awe_gone_1.php

  2. Rufus Firefly Says:

    Wow! You just cleared up something I have been confused about for decades. One of my favorite bands, “The English Beat” has a song that has “whine” in the title, but it has nothing to do with complaining and everything to do with dancing and singing. They were/are a caribean influenced ska/rock band and now I believe they meant “whine” in the way you explained. I always thought they were using it more like a nonsense word, for the sake of a rhyme.

  3. Brian Swisher Says:

    Perhaps we should use as a substitute the Briticism “whinge”.

  4. Bill Says:

    I’ll forbear from using that word anymore.

  5. Chris Leavtt Says:

    The most common whine in Houston is about the traffic.

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    Bill:

    Yes, if you use it again I’ll start you-know-whatting.

  7. parker Says:

    My first day at school (1st grade, there was no kindergarten) as we entered the class room and quietly sat down, Mrs. Allen tapped the blackboard where she had written “THERE WILL BE NO WHINING IN THIS CLASSROOM!’. Then she read it out loud in a stern voice. We were all a bit terrified, but one girl raised her hand and asked “What does that mean?” Mrs. Allen replied, “You will do what I say without any questions.” The girl, my neighbor Arlene, responded, “That’s what mom and dad tell us all the time.”

    Funny how we tend to remember those elementary teachers who were loving, but firm. Thank you Mrs. Allen.

  8. Ann Says:

    Now if we could just add “virtue-signalling” to the do-not-use-as-put-down list.

  9. Bill Says:

    “Now if we could just add “virtue-signalling” to the do-not-use-as-put-down list.”

    Amen.

  10. Bill Says:

    “Yes, if you use it again I’ll start you-know-whatting.”

    May it never be! I’ll be good 🙂

  11. miklos000rosza Says:

    I may not do the dance / as well as you
    but you can bet / you haven’t seen nothin’ yet
    until you see me do
    the James Brown

    …..now, where were we?

    Cool Jerk, by the Capitols?
    Dancing in the Street, Martha & the Vandellas?
    Twist N Shout, John Lennon & the Beatles?
    When You Dance, the Turbans?
    Land of 1000 Dances, Cannibal & the Headhunters? (or Wilson Pickett?)

    Nobody can do the Shingaling
    like I do
    Nobody can do the Skate
    like I do
    Nobody can do the Boogaloo
    like I do
    Nobody can do the Philly
    like I do

    Do you wanna dance?
    — even the Beach Boys and the Mamas & the Papas softly asked us that.

    James Brown opens with an emphatic HUH!
    then goes on to explain and demonstrate how well he can do the Jerk, the Camel Walk, the Boogaloo and the Mashed Potato.

    Dig me now
    Don’t worry ’bout later

    …building up, after doing the splits and bouncing back up, to the aforementioned immortal boast:

    You haven’t seen nothin’ yet
    until you see me do
    the James Brown

    {watch him in his prime, before 1968}

  12. Yann Says:

    In the internet political debates, I have discovered that the best way to answer is to simply state that it’s an insult, and move on.

    It is indeed an insult, it’s a way to call you “whiner” which is not better than calling you “stupid” or “retarded”. Should you argue why are you’re not retarded if somebody calls you as such?.

    That cases, arguing is wasting your time. State that you have been insulted and move on.

  13. Tom G Says:

    @Rufus — I also love The Beat (the “English” was added because there was some other, US band with the same name), and their old Saxophone player Saxa.

    In their song “I confess” there’s a fine verse:

    Night after night time time after time
    Done too much of both types of whining
    Still wasn’t right fight after fight
    To get out of my life get away from me get away from that gun

    << where I always think of wining & dining as the other type.

    There's also the joke about the Jewish American Princess and her favorite wine…
    .

    "When do we go to Miami?"
    (has to be done in a high, nasaly, NY accent)

    But maybe that joke has been too un-PC for so long most folk don't get it, or don't think it funny.

    A huge amount of humor is making fun of other people who are different. That's no longer polite in much of America.

  14. Uffdaphil Says:

    The Stroll is by far my favorite rock and roll dance and was popular for at least ten years. A formal structure, but with each couple in the aisle doing as subtle or complicated steps as they wished. It felt like an ancient tribal mating ritual.

    Many of the other dances like the Twist or Jerk were short lived as our parent’s generation hipsters like Steve Allen and Frank Sinatra gave them the kiss of death appropriating them on tv and in movies.

  15. Roy Says:

    I clicked on that link to the YouTube and as soon as it started playing my dog came into my office to see what was going on. He looked at the computer screen and did that head-tilt thing dogs do. It was really funny – until he started whining along with the rest of them, that is.

    My wife and I have discovered that if we start howling together, the dog soon joins in. It’s hilarious. I have no idea what the neighbors think but I figure that a family that howls together stays together.

    Dogs are wonderful creatures.

  16. brdavis9 Says:

    Whinge.

    …just sayin’.

    …tongue firmly in cheek.

  17. brdavis9 Says:

    …I was watching some episode or other of Midsomer Murders, and I heard …Barnaby? …use both whine and whinge in the same sentence.

    Hmm.

    Odd, that.

    …so I knew I’d erred somehow and at some point.

    I rather suspect it was during my Georgette Heyer period.

    …which has not ended in case you briefly wondered lol.

  18. Rufus Firefly Says:

    Tom G. Good point. Now that you mention it, that is almost definitely what they mean with that lyric. Clever.

    That wasn’t their only name change, but I like all the iterations and agree that Saxa is great!

  19. Richard Aubrey Says:

    You know it, and I know it. But it still has some resonance when used to discredit a valid position.
    As an earlier commenter said, call it an insult and not a rational observation and move on.

  20. Ymar Sakar Says:

    I can’t remember the last time I used that word.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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