whining lie

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Senior Member
Hi folks, this is cited from Redburn by Hermann Melville (1849)
Q: What does “whining lie” mean? Does it mean those beggars say “white lies” when they seem as if they are very sad and weepy? Maybe an imploring lie??

Old women, rather mummies, drying up with slow starving and age; young girls, incurably sick, who ought to have been in the hospital; sturdy men, with the gallows in their eyes, and a whining lie in their mouths; young boys, hollow-eyed and decrepit; and puny mothers, holding up puny babes in the glare of the sun, formed the main features of the scene.
  • Chez

    Senior Member
    English English
    No. 'whining' has nothing to do with 'white'.

    Whining means complaining, weak, pathetic (a dog whines when it has been beaten and dominated by its master).

    It means they are not bold, daring lies of a crafty person aiming to fool somebody, but pathetic, self-pitying lies.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2019
    whine /hwaɪn, waɪn/
    v., whined, whin•ing, n.

    to make a long, usually nasal, complaining sound, often high-pitched:
    [no object]The dog whined at the door
    to complain in a self-pitying way:
    [~ + that clause]The children whined that they wanted to stay up late.
    [no object]Don't whine.
    whine - WordReference.com Dictionary of English
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