Weesel

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Weesel

Post by John Barton » Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:32 pm

This is apparently a C17th English word meaning "epiglottis" or uvula. It seems not to be in OED or any other dictionary I can find, under this or variant spellings.
I have a copy of the 1694 English translation by William Salmon of Isbrand van Diemerbroeck's "The Anatomy of Human Bodies..." in which there is a contemporary explanatory ink note against "The Epiglottis" :- "weesel or flappe of ye throat". NOT referring to the weasand or trachea. Any ideas?
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Re: Weesel

Post by Phil White » Sun Oct 18, 2009 12:50 am

My guess (and it is only that) is that it is a variant spelling of "whistle". According to etymonline.com, "wet ones whistle" dates back to the late 14th century, so that would be adequate for your date.
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Re: Weesel

Post by zmjezhd » Sun Oct 18, 2009 1:44 pm

The entry for whistle in the online Middle English dictionary.
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Re: Weesel

Post by John Barton » Sun Oct 18, 2009 9:25 pm

That's interesting; I had no idea the expression "to wet one's whistle" was that old. Thanks both, and thank-you especially for not mentioning anything that goes pop after eating rice and treacle!
Fowler remarks on a trend of the affected classes around 1920 to pronounce the 't' in such words as 'whistle' and 'gristle'; from the early examples it seems in fact to have been pronounced a bit closer to 'weasel'. But Fowler is equally scathing about pronouncing the 't' in 'often', which these days most people do. The early quotations such as Chaucer don't sound jocular, and the epiglottis isn't hollow, but perhaps people thought of it as playing a part in whistling or wheezing, or as the musical reed in the mouth. And the trachea or weasand as a windpipe leading from an organ bag.
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Re: Weesel

Post by Phil White » Sun Oct 18, 2009 9:39 pm

John Barton wrote:... pronouncing the 't' in 'often', which these days most people do...
Around with whom do you hang?
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Re: Weesel

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Oct 19, 2009 1:05 am

If I was John I'd probably be hanging with the New Plymouth Breathren.
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Re: Weesel

Post by zmjezhd » Tue Oct 20, 2009 1:15 pm

Around with whom do you hang?

It's quite common in the States, at least on the Left Coast. Judging by the social rank of many who use the t-pronunciation I assume its a hyper-correction. It's up there with people who pronounce err as air and flaccid as flacsid without the k sound. (It's been going on for a while, because most of the major American English dictionaries give both pronunciations for often.

[Fixed omission by caffeine deprivation.]
Last edited by zmjezhd on Wed Oct 21, 2009 3:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Weesel

Post by Bobinwales » Tue Oct 20, 2009 2:31 pm

Just for the sake of interest, how did this thread get into the Archive?
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Re: Weesel

Post by Phil White » Tue Oct 20, 2009 2:47 pm

Presumably because John created it there inadvertently.
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End of topic.
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