twitterrati plus request

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Mar 24 20:47:14 UTC 2013

I have two citations from Life Magazine, 30 years apart--one from the
30s and one from the 60s. They are not hard to find, it's just that no
one bothered to look. The first one is a union whistle-blower--i.e.,
someone who blows the whistle for everyone to stop work (presumably for
a strike, particularly for a sit-down strike rather than a walkout). The
caption in GB is cut off, so there is still some work to do (like
finding a hard copy or a full scan).

The second is from the 60s and the whistle-blower is an associate of a
Senator ally of LBJ. The Senator ended up in the middle of a major
scandal and the associate blew the whistle on him when he did not
receive what he was promised. This one is most certainly an antedating,
but, I suspect, the earlier one points to the possible actual origin of
the term (rather than referees blowing the whistle to stop play). Cop's
whistle sounds a lot more plausible to me than sports origin (the latter
sounds like folk etymology to me), but union whistle-blowers should not
be ruled out without at least some investigation.


On 3/24/2013 11:00 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> "Whistle-blower" comes decades later than "blow the whistle on" (go figure)
> which, as far as anyone has ever known, alludes to a policeman's whistle.
> This early ex., however, suggests otherwise. The (earlier) meaning here is
> clearly to "oppose successfully; thwart decisively" rather than to "expose":
> 1916 George Ade in _Cosmopolitan_ (June) 42: Claude...had to blow the
> Whistle on Friend Wife, who was getting ready to send Daughter to Europe
> and put Son in Yale.
> JL

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list