Using the verb "whine" for a person

A-friend

Senior Member
Persian (Farsi)
Hi there

I have recently heard that although when someone makes a high-pitched noise (especially when they are sad), they are **whining** and we can use this verb to describe their action, but if you use it in this sense, it would be considered as a "rude" way to pointing that out! I wonder if you confirm or deny it. If your answer is positive about its rudeness, then please explain why?
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    See the references to peevishness & complaining in the various dictionary definitions.

    This earlier thread might help too: whine X moan

    .....

    Cross-posted. I agree with heypresto that we need to see context to determine the overtones in a particular case.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    “Whine” for me, in US English, is about complaining incessantly and/or obnoxiously. It is not about the pitch of your voice. And yes, telling someone they’re “whining” is not positive or neutral.
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    Please give us a complete sentence, with some context. We may then be able to say whether or not it's appropriate.
    Let's suppose that someone who is suffering from a terrible pain after surgery, in a recovery room, who is making some noises out of the pain. Can we say: "The patient is whining"?
     

    Sheeno

    Senior Member
    British English
    Let's suppose that someone who is suffering from a terrible pain after surgery, in a recovery room, who is making some noises out of the pain. Can we say: "The patient is whining"?
    Haha, that's a funny idea! You probably wouldn't want to say that, as it does imply the patient is complaining unnecessarily.

    I can absolutely see where your question has come from though, as whine can indicate a high-pitched sound or cry. The etymology apparently used to refer to the whistle of an arrow through the air, so this is where that meaning has come from. However, in English today the word is only used in that way to refer to animals, particularly dogs. If a dog wants something you'll often hear them whining in order to get your attention.

    It is from that sound that animals make that the contemporary meaning of "to complain feebly" probably comes from. That latter meaning is so prevalent nowadays that it's generally the only meaning when used about a person, with no indication about the pitch or type of sound they're making, just that they are complaining when it's unnecessary. Another thing to add is that whine is probably more common in American English when referring to people complaining than in British English, as in Britain we often instead say whinge.
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    You can say it, but it will be considered offensive.
    I wonder of you could let me know why it is considered as an offensive verb? Isn't it just because it has rooted from dog's begging noise when they are going to catch someone's attention? Or on second thaught I guess perhaps it has something to do with sexual matter... :confused:

    Meanwhile, please tell me whether there is a less offensive substitue for thia verb which can convey the same message.
     
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    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    Haha, that's a funny idea! You probably wouldn't want to say that, as it does imply the patient is complaining unnecessarily.

    I can absolutely see where your question has come from though, as whine can indicate a high-pitched sound or cry. The etymology apparently used to refer to the whistle of an arrow through the air, so this is where that meaning has come from. However, in English today the word is only used in that way to refer to animals, particularly dogs. If a dog wants something you'll often hear them whining in order to get your attention.

    It is from that sound that animals make that the contemporary meaning of "to complain feebly" probably comes from. That latter meaning is so prevalent nowadays that it's generally the only meaning when used about a person, with no indication about the pitch or type of sound they're making, just that they are complaining when it's unnecessary. Another thing to add is that whine is probably more common in American English when referring to people complaining than in British English, as in Britain we often instead say whinge.
    :D Well; than please let me know what would you use instead in normal English for the noise of such a patient? :)
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    We tend to think of whining as being somewhat annoying, and not much more than petty peevishness and petulance. We wouldn't describe someone crying out in genuine pain as 'whining'.
    Thank you. And what do you call the noise that a patient or anybody in pain makes?
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It depends on what sort of pain, and how severe it, and the crying out is.

    It could range from 'grumbling' and 'groaning', through 'crying' and 'howling, to 'shrieking' and 'screaming'.
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It depends on what sort of pain, and how severe it, and the crying out is.

    It could range from 'grumbling' and 'groaning', through 'crying' and 'howling, to 'shrieking' and 'screaming'.
    Also "moaning," which is a bit more neutral than "whining," at least as we use it in the US.

    A-friend, the word "whining" isn't offensive itself in the sense of being vulgar; it's offensive in the sense of being insulting.
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    I'd say it's usually used irritably or contemptuously, rather than insultingly.

    He's whining to the boss again about how he isn't taken seriously. Maybe if he actually did some work, he would be.
    To a small child pestering a parent for something: I've already told you you won't get it today. Now stop whining.

    It'd therefore be offensive if you used it to describe a patient who was in serious pain.
     
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