Published on June 24, 2011 by

Don’t worry, I’m not going to complain about anything in this post.

I’m not sure exactly when I first ran across the word “whinge,” but I don’t recall having seen it before about 2004.  I may have seen it on rare occasions before then, and just thought it was a misspelling of “whine,” since that would have made perfect sense in context.  But over the past few years it seems like I’ve been seeing the word more frequently.

I thought it might just be an example of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon: after really noticing the word for the first time, I started to see it more.  In other words, the frequency of usage for “whinge” hadn’t changed, but my perception of it had.

When I came across it again recently, I remembered the existence of a tool that would let me check trends in word usage: the Google Ngram Viewer.  It uses its index of books and periodicals to show the frequency of word usage over time.  So I checked “whinge” and “whinging”:


It looks like there’s been a lot more whinging in recent years (the chart ends in 2008.)  The growth really started in the early 1980s, but it took a while before it impinged (impined?) on my consciousness.  So, while it’s true that I may be noticing it more, it’s also true that it’s being used more.

Anyway, feel free to go waste time on the Google Ngram Viewer.

Filed under: General

8 comments on “Whinging”

  1. Patty Jansen says:

    This is priceless. I was also under the impression (although I could be wrong) that whinge was more common in the UK and took off from there.

  2. Patty, you’re right. In fact, if you use the Ngram Viewer to check, you can see it’s about 5 times more frequent in British English than American English. (Unfortunately, you have to run two separate charts; you can’t compare them directly.)

    The word seems to have really started to take off about the time I moved away from the U.K. (I’m not saying there’s a causal relationship. But that might be why I didn’t encounter it much earlier.)

  3. Wow, what an awesome thing, the Ngram Viewer. Google puts out some pretty amazing tools.

    You have just ruined several hours of productive time for me. ;-)

  4. David Stone says:

    I recall reading it when we when we lived in the UK. I didn’t realize, however, it had crossed the pond. True to their nature, however, the Brits don’t spell it correctly. To their use of the “u” in valour and colour, they use an “e” in whingeing.

  5. Carolyn Stone says:

    I remember running across it probably around 2001 or 2002 on a website forum that had quite a few Brits.

  6. I believe they\’ve been whinging in the UK for a lot longer. Being a member of the Commonwealth, we\’ve been know to occasionally whinge here in Canada, as well. I believe it has something to do with having Her Majesty the Queen as our head of state.

  7. Claudia Jaggers says:

    I first heard whinge in \’01 in Queensland, Australia; it was spoken fairly often and also written with the \”e\” in the newspapers — whingeing. Having forgotten all about it, I\’m glad to be reminded now. You can be sure that I\’ll use it! And what a wonderful way to waste time, at Google Ngram Viewer. Thanks, Eric.

  8. Carlajo says:

    I ran across the word for the first time in one of the Harry Potter books. I’ve used it a couple of times in my writing because there’s always room for one more word, especially since whining is so popular.