Heard on the Today show: "whuppin'"

James Harbeck jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA
Tue Oct 28 15:39:49 UTC 2008

FWIW, although "whuppin'" undoubtedly comes from "whipping," it
doesn't really have the same valence for me, and it _is_ a word that
I've been accustomed to for some time. Rather, it and "whoop" (as in
"open up a can of whoop-ass") make me think not of whipping (except
on reflection) but of striking with the hand, a belt, the feet, or
just in general -- more in the way of blunt objects.

I would agree that it's a deliberate cultural reference --
African-American or at least Southern American, in the same way that
"a certain je ne sais quoi" is deliberately French and "top of the
morning to you" is deliberately Irish (though, I'm told, not
necessarily common in Ireland). I'm just not sure that the users have
it in mind as a conscious variant on "whipping" -- "whip his ass"
isn't, in my little universe (FWIW), a white equivalent of "whup his
ass," and "give him a whipping" couldn't be used everywhere "give him
a whuppin'" could; my sense is that the reference to literal whipping
has faded almost entirely into the background. So whenever I've used
"whup" or "whuppin'", I haven't had whipping in mind.

But that's just individual data from a Canadian, so of course the
consciousness of its relation to "whipping" (which for me is only
there on reflection) may be more present for the users on the Today

James Harbeck.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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