Whistle, clean as a

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4 comments on this post.
  1. Elise Sheppard:

    Word Detective,
    I love you! Living in the sticks myself, in a town of 900 in the poorest county of the poorest state (yes, the dog chases whistle pigs down by the river) I sometimes looooong for an erudite discussion of anything.
    I believe you are spot-on in your explanation and appreciate you.
    Elise Sheppard

  2. Crystal B:

    “the old simile describes the whistling sound of a sword as it swishes through the air to decapitate someone, and an early 19th century quotation does suggest this connection: ‘A first rate shot.(his) head taken off as clean as a whistle.’ (Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins)Jul 15, 2011
    etymology – “Clean as a whistle” — why is a whistle considered …
    Stack Exchange › english › questions › c…

    *I too was pondering the origin of this saying with a pal when at the same time we decided to, d’un, d’un, d’un, google it and this is what appears in the beginning of the results. I take no credit whatsoever, I just wanted to share, thank you.

  3. Nick Hand:

    My guess is the whistle on a steam train has steam blown thru it – making it super clean. I think this also ties in with the first observations of this phrase- around time of first steam engines

  4. Emerson:

    I think it’s kinda simple. If you have a whistle, you’re gonna blow on it and put your mouth on it. So before you blow on it you’d want to clean the thing. So the phrase maybe comes from the fact that no one wants to put their mouth on a whistle with dirt and stuff on it.

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