(noun). Champion of the whistle. The person
who can hold out longest in a drinking bout. A Dane, in the train of
Anne of Denmark, had an ebony whistle placed on the table, and whoever
of his guests was able to blow it when the rest of the company were
too far gone for the purpose was called the champion. Sir Robert
Laurie of Maxwelton, after a rouse lasting three nights and three
days, left the Dane under the table and blew his requiem on the
To wet one's whistle. To take a drink.
Whistle means a pipe (Latin, fistula;
Saxon, hwistle), hence the wind-pipe.
“So was hir joly whistal well y-wet.”
You paid too dearly for your whistle. You
paid dearly for something you fancied, but found that it did not
answer your expectation. The allusion is to a story told by Dr.
Franklin of his nephew, who set his mind on a common whistle, which he
bought of a boy for four times its value. Franklin says the ambitious
who dance attendance on court, the miser who gives this world and the
next for gold, the libertine who ruins his health for pleasure, the
girl who marries a brute for money, all pay “too much for their
Worth the whistle. Worth calling; worth
inviting; worth notice. The dog is worth the pains of whistling for.
Thus Heywood, in one of his dialogues consisting entirely of proverbs,
says, “It is a poor dog that is not worth the whistling.”
Goneril says to Albany -
“I have been worth the whistle.”
King Lear, iv 2.
(verb). You may whistle for that. You
must not expect it. The reference is to sailors whistling for
the wind. “They call the winds, but will they come when
they do call them?”
Only a little hour ago
I was whistling to St. Antonio
For a capful of wind to fill our sail,
And instead of a breeze he has sent a gale.
Golden Legend. v.
You must whistle for more. In the
old whistle-tankards, the whistle comes into play when the
tankard is empty, to announce to the drawer that more liquor is
wanted. Hence the expression, If a man wants liquor,
he must whistle for it.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894