Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Episode 44: Whet Your Appetite Transcript

Click on “Read More” for the full transcript.

We used Temi to auto transcribe this, then Dan went through and checked it based on the show notes. He tried really hard on it, but this kind of stuff isn't his specialty. So if you notice anything confusing, please comment on this post so Dan can look at it and clarify anything.

Shauna:                               00:00                    Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. I'm Shauna Harrison
Dan:                                     00:05                    and I'm Dan Pugh. Each week we delve into the origin and history of an idiom, or other turn of phrase and discuss how it's been used over time. This often takes us down some fun and interesting research rabbit holes. But first Shauna, happy birthday.
Shauna:                               00:19                    My birthday is actually in February.
Dan:                                     00:21                    Yes, not your birthday. Our birthday. Bunny Trails is one year old! So we launched April 25th, 2018. And so this episode marks our one year point.
Shauna:                               00:32                    That's like super awesome. Seriously.
Dan:                                     00:34                    That is cool. So thanks for podding with me for the last year.
Shauna:                               00:37                    Well thank you for podding with me.
Dan:                                     00:39                    All right. Since we are now professionals and we've been doing this a year. Oh, let's just jump right on in. So I recently had to travel for my day job and I listened to several podcasts while I was driving and on the way to the place that I was going, someone in a podcast had said they needed to wet their whistle and which I, I laughed about and I thought, oh, that's cool, that's clever. But then when I was driving home, I was listening to a different podcasts. They said they wanted to whet their appetite.
Shauna:                               01:06                    Hmm.
Dan:                                     01:06                    Right. And suddenly I was like, no, wait a minute. I know that those intellectually, I know those two words are different, whet and wet, but is there any connection between these two? What do you think?
Shauna:                               01:18                    Like, I know that one is whet <emphasis on the wh sound>
Dan:                                     01:22                    Cool Whip. <emphasis on the WH sound> Cool Whip.
Shauna:                               01:25                    Also, I'm not a good whistler and I think it is probably associated with the whole speech issue, but I do have to wet my lips a lot in order to whistle. And so I always kind of liked the wet your whistle thing. I always associated with it like actually having to wet your lips in order to be able to whistle.
Dan:                                     01:42                    I see. All right. Well, okay, well wait no more. We're going to figure this stuff out now, but...
Shauna:                               01:47                    Good, because I don't have any actual answers.
Dan:                                     01:51                    All right, so this episode, the next episode, we're going to delve deep into both of these phrases. So up first is whet your appetite. So from the Oxford English dictionary, whet your appetite, W-H-E-T whet
Dan:                                     02:05                    Cool Whip. Cool Whip. Whip. Whip. That's a Family Guy bit. Sorry. So from the Oxford English dictionary, Whet your appetite,
Shauna:                               02:12                    I'm not going to be able to stop laughing about this.
Dan:                                     02:15                    About Cool Whip. Cool whip. All right. So from the Oxford English dictionary, "something that incites or stimulates desire and incitement or inducement to action," this is what, uh, whet your appetite means, right? So it could also be said that it's something that kind of teases you, went into wanting more, uh, or it can mean that it just sharpens your hunger, which is a thing that we will explore here in just a minute.
Shauna:                               02:43                    Okay.
Dan:                                     02:44                    All right, so you ready? Let's start with the word "whet". It's a, it's pronounced wet, just like W-E-T, but in this case it's W-H-E-T. And whet has meant "to sharpen" as a verb since the ninth century.
Shauna:                               02:56                    Okay. It's been around a while.
Dan:                                     02:57                    Yes. It was first attested by King Alfred around 897, uh, in his work Pastoral Care. And it comes from an old Norse word as well as moving through the Germanic languages. And it means to sharpen basically, uh, I'm not even gonna pretend to say the old Norse word because there's no way.
Shauna:                               03:15                    So to sharpen is almost like so, so focusing in a way?
Dan:                                     03:20                    In this, in this case, no, no, not the way it was originally used, no, "to sharpen" was to like "sharpen a weapon."
Shauna:                               03:27                    Gotcha.
Dan:                                     03:28                    So, and that is how we hear whet use now. So like a whetstone is a stone use for sharpening. Yes. But that's a W-H-E-T stone. Whetstone is used for sharpening.
Shauna:                               03:37                    I only know that because of D&D. <Dungeons and Dragons>
Dan:                                     03:40                    Well, there you go.
Shauna:                               03:40                    Yeah.
Dan:                                     03:41                    Perfect. So in the late 10th and early 11th centuries, we began to see a figurative usage of whet W-H-E-T pop up in phrases like "whet the sword", which those literal words meaning whet your sword would mean to sharpen your sword. And then in the late 10th century, early 11th century, we start seeing those words used as an allusionary way to say, prepare for battle. So you would say whet the sword in as an allusion to preparing for battle, not necessarily the specifics of sharpening your sword, which is what whet the sword would mean. And then we also started to see the phrase around that same time frame used interchangeably with whet the teeth, W-H-E-T the teeth. And that also meant to prepare for an attack. So we started to see in that timeframe, it transition from a very specific and literal use to a use of the literal words, but in a figurative or an allusionary, a way, and also whet the teeth started to come around to that timeframe. Let me, let me hit a little point where we almost started using it. We almost made it with Philemon Holland's 1601 translation of Pliny the elders, The History of the World, Commonly Called the Natural History of C Plinius Secondus, which is, Plinius Secondus is is what they called Pliny the Elder.
Shauna:                               05:01                    Can I say that? I love Pliny the Elder and you know, we just haven't seen enough of him lately on our pod.
Dan:                                     05:07                    I mean... This is where we saw this first in, in his History of the World, "Touching the dogs grasse Canaria, it took that name in Latin, because dogs use therwith to discharge their gorge & whet their stomacks when their appetite to meat is gone."
Dan:                                     05:24                    As you can see, we're really close to it, like whet their stomachs when their appetite to meat is gone. That was how that translation was at 1601 and as our friends at the Sawbones podcasts are quick to point out, Pliny the Elder was not always correct with his medical advice. So I am not going to make any claims whatsoever. I said accuracy or inaccuracy of Pliny the elder and dogs grass or in this case canaria, specifically.
Shauna:                               05:50                    Okay. So is this saying that dogs, what they do is they go out and eat some grass, which makes them throw up...
Dan:                                     05:56                    That's exactly
Shauna:                               05:57                    So they can eat more food.
Dan:                                     05:58                    I mean that's exactly what he's saying. Yes.
Shauna:                               06:00                    That's classic Pliny right there.
Dan:                                     06:02                    Well I mean it might be true. I don't know. I'm not making any claims one way or the other. I am not a veterinary, I mean my biology degree is focused on humans, not on dogs. So I got nothing on that.
Shauna:                               06:13                    Okay.
Dan:                                     06:14                    All right. So the first time we actually see this used is in 1612 like I said, so close. And this is the first time we find it in print. It's in the play. If it Be Not Good, The Devil Is In It. And this is by Thomas Dekker and the character shackle soul says, "alas my Lord. I thought it had been here as in the neighboring churches where the poorest Vicar is filled up to the chin with choice of meats, yet seeks new ways to wet dull appetite."
Dan:                                     06:45                    So that is the first time we see it talking about whetting our appetite, whetting appetites in some way.
Shauna:                               06:51                    So these like, okay, so they get filled up with the choicest of meat. Okay. So they're getting all the good food.
Dan:                                     06:59                    I believe this character is a demon. So that's...
Shauna:                               07:01                    I like the name shackle soul.
Dan:                                     07:03                    Yeah, no, it's really good. I have to tell you, just as an aside, I'm going to go down a little bit of a bunny trail here, but as is common for Internet research, I found no less than four gazillion sites all saying that 1612 is the first time that we saw this phrase used. But none of them said where and all of them quoted one thing, which was not the original quote whatsoever. Not even remotely. It was like somebody said it was the first time we saw it was in 1612 as in, and then just gave some made up statement that wasn't actually anything about, you know, some sort of a musical play, Schubert or something. And everyone seems to have copied this. So it literally, all of the websites that talked about this, that claim 1612 they all plagiarized each other and while they were all right about 1612 they were all wrong about.. Like that, that phrase was not the quote that used and a lot of them because they plagiarized after plagiarism, after plagiarism, after plagiarism, it, the differentiation between, "as in" this phrase was lost. And uh, so it became very difficult. It took me also like 20 minutes to figure out the character cause they just used, I'd read the whole play because they just use the abbreviation for the name. So just said Shac, S-H-A-C. And so I was like, I don't know who that is so I can go find, and it's not like classic, you know, poetry, uh, or a classic plays of Shakespeare or whatever. Even though this was at around the same timeframe, it's not where it has like a list of the people in it at the front.
Shauna:                               08:39                    No you have to figure it out throughout the story. Yeah. That's fantastic.
Dan:                                     08:44                    Thomas Shadwell's 1688 comedy Squire of Alessia. I'm apparently, I'm only going to quote plays lately.
Shauna:                               08:52                    Alsatia?
Dan:                                     08:52                    Alsatia. What word did I say?
Shauna:                               08:54                    I don't know.
Dan:                                     08:54                    I don't know. Whatever word I said, let's not worry about that. Squire of Alsatia. So this is a 1688 comedy by Thomas Shadwell. And in it they say, "let's whett. Bring some wine. Come on. I love a whett!"
Dan:                                     09:08                    W-H-E-T-T in this case.
Shauna:                               09:10                    Meeee toooo! That sounds good. Bring the wine!
Dan:                                     09:12                    So in this case, he's not saying whet his appetite, but he's using it in that way. And then in a 1694 translation of The Satyr of Titus Petronius Arbiter they write, “When having whet our appetites with an excellent Antipast, we swill'd our selves with the choicest of Wine.”
Shauna:                               09:33                    Do you think they meant an antipasto?
Dan:                                     09:37                    No, they don't. They did not mean that. I will tell you exactly what they mean at the end of the episode
Shauna:                               09:44                    Just saying I love Antipasto.
Dan:                                     09:46                    Yup. Nope. Not that at all. I mean, actually they're probably roots probably come from the same thing which you will see here, but no, they don't mean that specifically.
Shauna:                               09:54                    Gotcha.
Dan:                                     09:55                    All right, so let's jump into some newspapers from the national gazette. July 11th, 1792 and this is out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And this was the news, uh, foreign news specifically out of Brussels. This news was May 10th, 1792 it just took it a little bit to reach a Philadelphia at the time. And they said "Large bodies of French troops are on the march to reinforce their northern army. Lafayette's army is daily receiving reinforcements. He seems by his motions to be meditating some important attack as to the troops hostile to France. It is computed that the number of troops in the Netherlands from Luxembourg to the sea, from the several German powers amounts to 60,000 in order to whet the appetites of these soldiers and encourage them, all the plunder taken from the French is to be distributed amongst them."
Shauna:                               10:50                    Man. French have some nice stuff too.
Dan:                                     10:53                    Oh yeah. All right. So here's another example. In 1879 in Robert Louis Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey In the Cevennese, "Father Michael gave me a glass of liqueur to stay me until dinner. The whet administered, I was left alone. "
Dan:                                     11:10                    And then another example in 1898 out of Nebraska city, Nebraska in The Conservative, this is basically they are complaining about financial inconsistencies. Uh, especially in the case of government owned railroads. He says, "and all of this property and all of this patronage whet the populistic appetite for power, place and plunder for it, they would quintuple the interest bearing debt of the government"
Dan:                                     11:35                    Thats 1898 talking about government debt. There we have not learned anything in America, but also this is the first time I found it where we talked about whet the certain type of appetite and now we're not talking about even a humanoid like appetite now, but some sort of a um, you know, political motive or some sort of other things. So he's talking about the populistic appetite. So the appetite of the masses for populism. In this case, in the Whitefish Pilot in 1912 out of Whitefish, Montana, I saw a article where they were talking about clean sweep sale at the star clothing companies. And so they had basically all kinds of different clothes that were for sale. And one of the things that they listed, there were some basic stuff that to get them started and it said "just to whet your appetite".
Dan:                                     12:22                    So here again, we're not, we see it continue to transition, not just talking about our actual appetite or hunger, but other concepts as well. Any sort of appetite...
Shauna:                               12:34                    Like interest or desire for something.
Dan:                                     12:36                    Right. So with that, we're starting to see that transition to something that incites or stimulates desire as an incitement or induction to action. And we're starting to see that transition in the late 18 hundreds and early 19 hundreds. And we see that through these newspapers of the United States. In the Roanoke Rapids Herald out of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina in 1933. This is the March 2nd edition. So I'm gonna read just a little bit of this says "magicians say exposure booms their business."
Dan:                                     13:02                    And this is talking about a, uh, each generation of magicians is revealing some of their work, but then they add to it and leave some of it secret, but they real real like the basic of it. And, uh, so basically their comment is "the explanations only seem to whet the appetite for more."
Dan:                                     13:21                    So again, we see a complete shift of this usage from appetites, food related or drink related to appetites of like I want more desire, you know, I desire for more
Shauna:                               13:32                    I see that concept too. I mean with these magicians it's like you're giving people a little bit so they know that there is something there that they could potentially figure out but uh, you know, it's got them desiring to watch the next thing and see what comes out next to try and figure it out for themselves.
Dan:                                     13:49                    Absolutely. Yeah. Right. So I do want to mention before we, uh, before we move to our break real quick that there is some examples. I said wet, your whistle is W-E-T wet. There are some examples in print of W-H-E-T your whistle whet your whistle like that. This is usually in conjunction with the phrase wet your whistle. Even as far back as the late 16 hundreds, which is when we really started seeing our phrase take off too. Like in Thomas Flatmen's work Belly God, where he writes "first whet thy whistle with some good metheglin"
Dan:                                     14:16                    And metheglin is a spiced mead that's usually associated with Wales. The country, Wales not, not like the swimming kind
Shauna:                               14:23                    Ha. It's associated with the whales.
Dan:                                     14:25                    And there are many other examples of this, uh, not a whole lot, but some in these cases it appears most of it to be somewhat an inappropriate use of the word so they have misunderstood it or misspelled that in these, in these examples. So copy editors who just had a fit, as I started talking about whet your whistle, W-H-ET you are still probably right. Um, it, it is not. It is wet. Your whistle, W-E-T wet, not whet the other way your whistle. So you're still probably right. You can continue to be pedantic about it all you want because you literally get paid for that.
Shauna:                               15:00                    Go for it!
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Dan:                                     15:39                    Okay, so a couple of examples, uh, in more modern times here, or at least more, more times like we said in
Shauna:                               15:46                    Nowish? Wait.
Dan:                                     15:47                    Wait. Nowish. More nowish uh, so there's a song called Hungry. It's performed by, I believe it's pronounced Kosheen. It is a, uh, electrical band, Electronica band. And this is an upbeat song. It came out in 2001 by a moke shall recordings. It was written by the band members, Mark Morrison, Sian Evans, and Darren Beale. And the chorus goes, "are you hungry for a little more than what you've had before? Are you hungry for a taste of life? Whet your appetite? Are you hungry?"
Shauna:                               16:19                    That sounds pretty good.
Dan:                                     16:20                    I mean like I'm not really into Electronica in general as a style of music, but, uh, I actually, I mean I liked the words. I like the lyrics. I liked the singer's voice. Um, I kind of liked the rhythm of the song, so I'll link to it on patreon so everybody can see or hear it. But, uh, and I'll link to their original video. It's on youtube now via Vevo. So, uh, anyway,
Shauna:                               16:43                    I'll have to listen to it because, you know, uh, just looking at the lyrics, like in my head, this is a classic rock. Like, you know, Led Zepplin even maybe?
Dan:                                     16:52                    I think these lyrics definitely could've been classic rock.
Shauna:                               16:57                    Or even like into Aerosmith. I mean, if you want to go that route. Aerosmith would totally do a . Are you hungry for a little more?
Dan:                                     17:06                    Yeah, but this is not a sexual thing at all. This is like a desire thing. This is a being better than who you are thing. So it doesn't really fit into anything to Aerosmith would ever do.
Dan:                                     17:20                    So Good Eats with Alton Brown: Whet Your Appetite. It was produced in 2008. It's a DVD set from the Good Eats TV show and this is the synopsis they give "Good Eats with Alton Brown is the most fun you can have watching TV while still learning something."
Dan:                                     17:35                    I mean we're going to, we're going to differ on this just me and the author here, but I'll digress and go back to it.
Dan:                                     17:41                    "It's cooking class meets science class meets recess. In fact, if you had this guy for chemistry, you'd never want to leave high school."
Dan:                                     17:48                    Okay. Once again. Um, anyway, back to it.
Dan:                                     17:53                    "Mix in his quirky personality and random jabs at pop culture and you'd have a great TV or as Alton would say Good Eats. This collection contains three discs, hooked and cooked recipes, poultry pleaser recipes, and more meats recipes, each of which contains three episodes.
Shauna:                               18:09                    At least. There are three episodes per...
Dan:                                     18:12                    Yeah, so it's like nine shows, I guess you can get it on Amazon. There's also a Whet My Appetite: Catering Graphic Design. This came out in 2013 and it doesn't list an author, but it's by Ginko Press. And this is also available on Amazon. "For many of us, eating out is one of the supreme pleasures in life. The experience exposes us to the talents of a legion of chefs and entrepreneurs who find fulfillment in creating subtle and original experiences for our palates. This consideration does not stop at taste, but extends to the other senses as well, providing new combinations of form, color and texture that can comfort or tantalize."
Dan:                                     18:46                    And then it talks about the design of restaurants a little bit in there. And uh, so I get the idea that this is about designing restaurants, uh, everything from the interior graphics of the Menus and the signage all the way to like how you're actually structuring things in your restaurant. So that's what that book is about. Cool. There's also one called Whetting the Appetite. And again, this is all W-H-E-T Whetting The Appetite 2014. And this is by Elizabeth L. Brooks and Lynn Townsend, who are both romance and erotica authors in their own right. "The stories in this collection span contemporary historical steam, punk, fantasy, scifi, and horror taking you from a modern living room to the high seas, to Victorian London, to planets and times at the edge of imagination. Explore relationships all along the romantic and erotic spectrums, including the thrill of a one night stand, the fierce burn of rivalry, the heady flush of a new romance, the intense trust of BDSM and all the pros and cons of longterm partnerships meet characters who defy conventional gender boundaries, including a preoperative trans male, several aliens, and a few characters whose genders are left open to reader interpretation. Sexual orientations on display vary nearly as widely with groupings that include male/female, male/male, female/female and female/female/male. Not to mention those aliens. With 46 stories to choose from. There's something here for every moment and every mood. Something to whet any appetite."
Shauna:                               20:13                    My goodness. Okay, I'm really glad that you said 46 stories because I was like, how many? Like, I mean, how did they make it all fit?
Dan:                                     20:18                    How did they get all of this into one book? There are 46 stories here. I, you know what a romance and Erotica stuff is not really my bag on books, but this sounds interesting. I might buy this book just to like pick through and find some of these stories and just read them just to expose myself to some other things. Hmm.
Shauna:                               20:38                    Listen, it does sound interesting. If for no other reason than they're aliens.
Dan:                                     20:43                    Oh, you know, if that's the case, wait until next week.
Shauna:                               20:46                    Oh my.
Dan:                                     20:47                    All right. So before we wrap up, I must really say I enjoyed the number of words I came across that have wet the appetite as part of the definition in the Oxford English dictionary. Okay. So here are a few of them.
Dan:                                     20:58                    Anitpast - something eaten before or at the start of a meal to whet the appetite. Ah, so that when they said antipast earlier they were talking specifically something that you eat before or at the start of that gets you ready and has it brings you a desire for wanting more. I want more. This isn't enough. I need more.
Shauna:                               21:17                    I, okay. So I think that actually is where that anti pasta dish came from, which is just a, like I've had it mainly at I'm Italian or Greek restaurants and it's like a specific salad mix. But it's designed to be the precursor to, to a big meal.
Dan:                                     21:32                    Yes. And so that's why I think they have the same roots. I think it still comes from the same place. Uh, but it is a specific thing now. Right. Instead of anything that could be used. Yeah. Right. Okay.
Dan:                                     21:44                    There's also an antisupper and that's "a course of a meal displayed to whet the appetite but not be eaten specifically one that is then replaced with an identical course to be eaten." So this would be a case where you have like this amazing looking pie when you walk into the restaurant and you're like, your mouth starts watering and you go sit down and then you're ordering pie. You're not getting that one of course. Cause that's just there to like that's just there to, to whet the appetite and make you want more to have more desire for it. But yeah, so that's the antisupper
Shauna:                               22:13                    like most places like please don't hand me the one that's out of the display case cause it's Been there since this morning? I want the one that you just took out of the oven please. Thanks.
Dan:                                     22:25                    So there's another one called Aparetivo and this is got two meanings. "1. A drink, usually alcoholic serve before a meal to stimulate the appetite" or "2. a light savory snack served alongside a drink, usually alcoholic typically to whet the appetite before a meal."
Shauna:                               22:42                    Gotcha. Okay. So you know like alcohol, does that make most people hungrier or more like desire, more food, the maybe care less how it tastes.
Dan:                                     22:55                    I don't know. Yeah, I don't know. I don't know. I'm going to, I'm not an organic chemist so I'm not sure that I can quite answer that question, but I can tell you that almost every example of whet the appetite that I found originally was used with alcoholic drinks.
Shauna:                               23:09                    Right. That's what I was noticing a consistent theme there.
Dan:                                     23:10                    There was a very strong trend. Uh, and that could just be because of the way things were written at the time, that they were oftentimes written in joint places. You know, where you would have light, where you would have people, where you would have a capability to get access to food and drink and that kind of stuff. But it could also be because alcohol was a very popular part of the lifestyle at that point.
Shauna:                               23:32                    Yeah. And that's true. I mean actually, yeah, I mean people were served wine or whatever as the, at the beginning of their meals. That was the common common thing.
Dan:                                     23:41                    Okay. And so the last one, hor d'oeuvres, "an extra dish served as a relish to whet the appetite between the course of a meal or more generally as commencement."
Dan:                                     23:50                    Those are four different things that I saw there that while I was researching whet the appetite I found as part of the definition. Like I know I didn't find in any of these cases where there were examples of antipast being used with whet the appetite, but it was just in the definitions of the, the word. So it was very interesting. So I wanted to include that because I did learn a lot more about how we use whetting the appetite now to uh, mean bringing it about that desire more so than originally where it was specifically food, but here in it and it holds true even still when we're talking specifically about food as well.
Dan:                                     24:25                    Well that about wraps us up for today. I'd also like to say a big thank you to those of you who've posted reviews for the show. It's the easiest way to support your favorite podcast. Best of all, it's free. If you have a suggestion for an idiom or other turn of phrase or you just want to chat, you can catch us on Twitter and Instagram and occasionally even Facebook all @bunnytrailspod or you can get links to everything we do at
Dan:                                     24:49                    This is our 44th episode and we're nearing a big milestone for us and we need your help. Is there a turn of phrase that means something important to you? Well, we want to hear about it. You can reach out to us on social media or email us at We'd love to hear about your favorite phrase and why you love it. The deadline to send your stuff is Sunday, May 26th. It can be written or an audio file, or send us a message and we'll reach back out to you. Most of all, we want to know what turns of phrase are important to you and why. So let us know. Thanks again for joining us. We'll talk to you again next week. And until then, remember,
Together:                           25:29                    Words belong to their users.

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