Kathleen, I was very surprised not to be able to find this common phrase in any dictionary. So the best I can do is work on WHIM
separately. (Because I thought it was interesting, I did include Merriam-Webster’s
lengthy explanation on the differences between FANCY, FANTASY, PHANTASY, PHANTASM, VISION, DREAM,
). Notice that ‘whim’ and ‘fancy’ are often given as synonyms although technically it seems that whim is of a shorter time scale.
For those who don’t want to wade through what follows and are just looking for a quiet definition, a very nice one for WHIMS AND FANCIES
is: ‘vagrant, changing breezes’
noun. (Random House Unabridged Dictionary (RHU)
1. an odd or capricious notion or desire; a sudden or freakish fancy: a sudden whim to take a midnight walk.
2. capricious humor: to be swayed by whim.
[1635–45; short for WHIM-WHAM]
—Syn. 1. whimsy, vagary, caprice.
(Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged (MWU)
Etymology: short for whim-wham
1 archaic: a fanciful or fantastic device, object, or creation
2: a capricious or eccentric idea, notion, or vagary usually occurring suddenly or spontaneously : CAPRICE, FANCY <every royal master had whims of his own, - antiquated prejudices, family ties, fragments of knowledge to which he attached exaggerated importance— A.J.P.Taylor> <the whim struck him to become an army flier— Green Peyton> <a defense of reason against unreason, conviction against whim, knowledge against mere shifting mood-of-the-moment— Alan Devoe> <whims of nature> <whims of fate>
noun. (Random House Unabridged (RHU)
1. any odd or fanciful object or thing; a gimcrack.
2. whim-whams, Informal. nervousness; jitters: He had the whim-whams after the accident.
[1490–1500; gradational compound; cf. FLIMFLAM, JIMJAMS, etc.]
Etymology: Middle English fantsy, contraction of fantasie fantasy, fancy, from Middle French, fantasy, from Late Latin phantasia imagination, from Latin, mental image, from Greek, appearance, image, faculty of imagination, from phantazein to make visible, present to the mind, from phainein to show; akin to Old English gebôned polished, Middle Dutch boenen to scour, scrub, Greek phaos, phôs light, Sanskrit bhati it shines
1 a : a liking formed by caprice rather than reason : INCLINATION <a FANCY for a stroll by the river this evening> <how does this strike your fancy?> <had a FANCY for rich delicacies> b : amorous fondness : love or desire <sometimes the queen took a FANCY to handsome lads about the court>
2 a : an opinion or notion formed without much reflection : CAPRICE, WHIM <the prediction of his return is based on a mere FANCY> b : an image or representation of something formed in the mind <what sorry FANCIES trouble you so?> c : a product of mental conception (as an invention, device, or design) <what a pretty FANCY her drawing is> <an excellent trout fly, my father's own FANCY>
6 a : imagination especially of a capricious sort; often : ILLUSION : delusive imagination b : the power of conception and representation used in artistic expression (as by a poet or painter) : IMAGINATION; especially : the power of conceiving and giving artistic form to that which is not existent, known, or experienced c : the invention of the novel and the unreal by recombining the elements found in reality so that life is represented in alien surroundings or essentially changed in natural physical and mental constitution (as in centaurs or giants) — distinguished from imagination d : the conceiving power which concerns itself with imagery (as figures of speech and details of a decorative design) : CONCEIT
7 : judgment or taste (as in matters of art or dress) <a person of delicate FANCY>
Synonyms: FANCY, FANTASY, PHANTASY, PHANTASM, VISION, DREAM, DAYDREAM,
can signify, in common, a vivid idea or image present in the mind but having no concrete or objective reality.
applies to anything conceived purely in the imagination whether it combines the elements of reality or is pure invention, usually however, carrying the implication of something consequently more or less trifling <was this only the FANCY of a visionary, or would it come true in the end?— Ellen Glasgow> <the status of archaeological fact and FANCY in the world today— W.W.Taylor>
is an imaginative product (often extended and often in literary or artistic form) the greater part or the significant part of which has no correspondence with an objective reality, usually implying an unrestrained inventiveness <lost himself in a pictured FANTASY of a London working-class shopping district on a Saturday night— C.S.Forester> <understood Bloom's mind as a river of nonsequiturs and FANTASIES of fear, guilt and desire— Time> <intoxicated by V of world conquest— Nathaniel Peffer> <to cleanse our minds of all FANTASY and daydream— Economic Council Letter>
, generally interchangeable with FANTASY, sometimes applies more to the psychological image-making power in general or its product, often also standing as a clearer antonym of truth or reality <the distinctions between dream and reality, imagination and fact are blurred, and the speeches and activities of his characters are a further acting out of the schizophrenic's lonely PHNATASY-life, a charade in which the fixed meaning is contactlessness— Isaac Rosenfeld> <on the stage PHNATASY, a strange persuasive illusion, reigns— Leonide Zarine> <probably in his life, certainly in his poetry, there is no sharp boundary between PHNATASY and reality— H.S.Canby>
may apply to a phantasy, a mental image, or to a fantasy, especially a hallucination <held that only the Supreme Being exists and all that we call the natural world is illusion, a PHANTASM of the human mind having no real existence of its own— Radhagovinda Basak> <the figures in the rooming house, in the bars and cabarets slid out of his thoughts like PHANTASMS that had no real existence— Donn Byrne>
generally applies to what the mind sees so clearly or concretely as to suggest concrete reality, as if revealed by a supernatural power or by vivid intuition, sometimes applying to an image of something one wishes strongly to realize, often suggesting something spiritual in essence and therefore beyond the general grasp of the senses <what VISIONS and revelations God may have granted—Willa Cather> <VISIONS of suddenly acquired wealth began to float in their minds— Sherwood Anderson> <our VISIONS of world law and some sort of worldwide law enforcement agency— Saturday Review>
applies to the ideas and especially the images present to the mind in sleep. Figuratively, like DAYDREAM
, it suggests vague or idle, commonly happy, imaginings of future events or imaginative projections of the ideal self or life; unlike DAYDREAM, however, DREAM can apply to a serious, though usually idealized, envisioning of a realizable, often planned, future event or state of affairs <to wake from a bad DREAM> <were it not for the oppressions and monotonies of daily experience, the realm of dream and reverie would not be attractive— John Dewey> <a DREAM of better society in which to live> <the shock that will bring them out of their DAYDREAMS into today's realities— Science News Letter> <a DAYDREAM, which is wishful thinking and an attempt to escape the experience of oneself— Life> <DAYDREAMS of a better world— Fortune> Synonym see in addition IMAGINATION
Ken G - April 23, 2002
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)