Every time i hear this idiom, ns cogitate to no avail regarding its sense. Why is that a whistle, and not a lantern, or an axe?

You are watching: Where does the phrase clean as a whistle come from



See more: How Many Newtons Does It Take To Break A Bone ? How Much Force Does It Take To Break A Bone

If the derivation of "clean as a whistle" has something to carry out with a "clean cut," then i propose that the only link to this explanation is the horn a sword renders as it leaves its sheath, just prior to its use. This comes from the encyclopedia that instinct and also common sense.
Etymonline indicates the first appearance the this phrase as 1878.

Take our Word for It discusses a possible 1786 origin from a Scottish poet:

Robert "Rabbie" Burns (in his Author"s Earnest Cry, 1786) gives us the very first use that anything the same, similar thing the expression clean as a whistle in writing: "Her mutchkin stowp together toom’s a whissle"... This meant "Her pint bucket is as empty as a whistle". ...we conjecture that Rabbie was familiar with this instrument, the implicitly being that if a horn is no clear the obstruction inside, then it will certainly not pat properly.

The authors also connect "clear" (as in the pure sound of a whistle) come "clean":

The phrase Finder summarizes several beginning theories, including:

the old simile defines the whistling sound that a sword as that swishes v the air to decapitate someone, and an early 19th century quotation does imply this connection: "A an initial rate shot.(his) head take away off as clean as a whistle." (Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins) Robert Burns, in his poem, "Earnest Cry," offered "toom" ("empty") rather than "clean" ...other writers have had actually the whistle clear, dry, pure or various other adjective. ...for a sweet, pure sound from a whistle or reed, the tube need to be clean and dry. (Heavens to Betsy & other Curious Sayings) something or anyone together clean as a brand-new horn or as clear together its sound is bound to it is in good. ... An company or person dubbed as "clean together a whistle" has actually been judged to it is in guiltless or flawless (Why You to speak It)

The indigenous Detective more suggests:

The expression actually has actually two meanings: "clean or pure" and "absolutely, completely." "Utterly or completely" is the initial 18th century meaning -- a roof blown off in a tornado can be said to have been torn turn off "clean as a whistle," leaving no remnants. The "pure or unsullied" meaning ("Wash that deck until it"s clean together a whistle, sailor") came later on ...Christine Ammer, in her publication "Have A Nice job -- No Problem, A dictionary of Cliches," points come the expression "clear as a whistle," really common in the 18th century. ..."clear as a whistle" concerned mean "unmistakable" or "unambiguous." ...the succeeding drift the "clean" in the expression to median "pure" is what has actually led to folks like you wonder "what"s so clean about whistles?"

If such a change has taken place, it might explain why a phrase that have the right to be linked to complete, obvious decapitation can likewise mean innocence or cleanliness.