Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Words in vogue : whinge

Whinge : to whine, to complain peevishly; an annoying complaint
Whine : a shrill protracted cry, to cry in a subdued plaintive tone

Whingeing (or whinging - but I think it needs the 'e') and whining is what many of us, me included, accuse our children of doing all the time. (How do they learn so young how to strike that particular high tone and falling note? It gets attention but it's surely so irritating as to be counter-productive!) There's also, of course, that antipodean insult, "whinging Pom" - the Brit who is never satisfied with anything, and always complaining.

It's a word which seems to be getting a lot of airing at the moment. If anyone protests about anything, they can expect some commentator to describe them as "whingeing". I am thinking particularly of it in relation to protests at library closures, but I've seen it recently aimed at a wide variety of others too. It seems quite inappropriate to me, as angry people protesting at perceived injustices are not usually peevish or whiny, they are merely expressing a different point of view from that held by the insulters. We do, after all, still live in a society in which people are free to express a variety of opinions.

I don't mind the "whingeing Pom" jibe, but I do mind the spreading practice of dismissing legitimate complaint and protest. The clue as to why it is an unpleasant insult lies in what I said about children. It's an attempt to belittle others (by the implied likening of them to whiny children). Let's all agree to disagree without these unlovely attempts to disparage the views of others. I'm going to try not to use it at all - even under duress from child!

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