whiskers

Mr Bones

Senior Member
España - Español
Hello, I'm reading An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge, by Ambrose Bierce, and I came across the following description:

His features were good--a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead, from which his long, dark hair was combed straight back, falling behind his ears to the collar of his well-fitting frock coat. He wore a mustache and pointed beard, but no whiskers; his eyes were large and dark gray, and had a kindly expression which one would hardly have expected in one whose neck was in the hemp.

I can tell from the text that, in this case, whiskers are sideburns. But when I googled it to see images, the only thing I found was moustaches; cats' and dog's moustaches, principally. And one of a man, too: a really curly and picturesque moustache.

I looked it up in the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary too, but the definition provided there confused me even more:

The hair growing on a man's face, especially the sides and/or the lower part.

Could anyone help me with this term? Thanks in advance.

Mr Bones.
 
  • se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Mr Bones said:
    Hello, I'm reading An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge, by Ambrose Bierce, and I came across the following description:

    His features were good--a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead, from which his long, dark hair was combed straight back, falling behind his ears to the collar of his well-fitting frock coat. He wore a mustache and pointed beard, but no whiskers; his eyes were large and dark gray, and had a kindly expression which one would hardly have expected in one whose neck was in the hemp.

    I can tell from the text that, in this case, whiskers are sideburns. But when I googled it to see images, the only thing I found was moustaches; cats' and dog's moustaches, principally. And one of a man, too: a really curly and picturesque moustache.

    I looked it up in the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary too, but the definition provided there confused me even more:

    The hair growing on a man's face, especially the sides and/or the lower part.

    Could anyone help me with this term? Thanks in advance.

    Mr Bones.


    I think you have answered your own question. As the Cambridge dictionary says, the whiskers are hair growing at the side of the face i.e. sideburns. I suppose that the 'hemp' is the material from which the hangman's rope is made?
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    The man was probably sporting something like what we now call a "goatee."

    HERE is a photo of Buffalo Bill Cody. He has a mustache, and long-pointy beard, but no whiskers. HERE is another, similar photo of him.

    THIS man is wearing "chops" (whiskers/sideburns), but not beard.
     

    Mr Bones

    Senior Member
    España - Español
    Thank you, but I can't understand why I only find animal's moustaches (cats, dogs, seals, mice, rabitts, etc) when I type whiskers, and not sideburns.


    I suppose that the 'hemp' is the material from which the hangman's rope is made?
    Yes, it is. And the rope itself too.

    Mr Bones
     

    emma42

    Senior Member
    British English
    He Mr Bones. I think you found it difficult to find human "whiskers" because that word is not used much nowadays, except to refer to animals. Our AE friends may disagree. It sounds 18th/19th century to me. It makes me think of characters in Dickens.
     

    Mr Bones

    Senior Member
    España - Español
    emma42 said:
    He Mr Bones. I think you found it difficult to find human "whiskers" because that word is not used much nowadays, except to refer to animals. Our AE friends may disagree. It sounds 18th/19th century to me. It makes me think of characters in Dickens.

    Hello, Emma. I agree with you, but what sounds strange to me is the fact that, when referred to animals, the word smeems to mean "moustache", whereas when related to humans it means "sideburns". Am I understanding it correctly? Thank you, Mr Bones.
     

    emma42

    Senior Member
    British English
    Yes, when referring to animals the word refers to "any of the ...hairs growing around the mouth..." of an animal (Chambers Dictionary), so I would see that more as "sideburns" then "moustache" because the hairs are not growing directly above the mouth.

    When referring to humans, my dictionary has

    1 coarse hair on a human face (esp man's)
    2 man's moustache (esp formerly) and esp the parts growing on the cheeks.

    So, it would seem that whiskers can be used for any hair on the human face, but especially the parts of a man's facial hair on the cheeks. This is the view of one dictionary, though.
    3
     

    french4beth

    Senior Member
    US-English
    emma42 said:
    He Mr Bones. I think you found it difficult to find human "whiskers" because that word is not used much nowadays, except to refer to animals. Our AE friends may disagree. It sounds 18th/19th century to me. It makes me think of characters in Dickens.
    I would agree with Emma - it's an old-fashioned term here in AE, as well.
     

    daviesri

    Senior Member
    USA English
    In the text you have it would be sideburns. I would say that currently whiskers are used to describe the hair on a man's face. Once the hairs get long enough, they are called a beard or a mustache.

    I would consider a man with several days of unshaven stubble to have whiskers.
     

    emma42

    Senior Member
    British English
    I have just asked my mother, who is 73, what she would understand by "whiskers" and she says "sideburns" or muttonchops". I agree with daviesri, though, that current usage is extended.
     

    daviesri

    Senior Member
    USA English
    emma42 said:
    I have just asked my mother, who is 73, what she would understand by "whiskers" and she says "sideburns" or muttonchops". I agree with daviesri, though, that current usage is extended.

    After reading your post I asked my mother (a youthful 71) about whiskers. She understands them to be facial hair while sideburns are sideburns. Maybe there is an AE/BE thing going on here.
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    English
    Small off-topic(ish) comment…
    My first adventures in radio-listenership were made with a crystal-set radio I constructed in the 1950s - one of the few components of which was called the "cat's whiskers", the crystal the set took it's name from.
    We've come a long way!
     

    Mr Bones

    Senior Member
    España - Español
    Thank you all. It's always amazed me how unexpectedly a thread can become interesting as it develops. This often happens in the most unpredictable way. Give my warmest thanks to your mothers too. Mr Bones.
     
    maxiogee said:
    Small off-topic(ish) comment…
    My first adventures in radio-listenership were made with a crystal-set radio I constructed in the 1950s - one of the few components of which was called the "cat's whiskers", the crystal the set took it's name from.
    We've come a long way!

    Actually, Max, the "cat's whisker" was not the crystal itself but something that looked slightly like a single whisker that was put in contact with the crystal and had to be adjusted carefully. Then germanium (sic, germanium, not geranium) diodes came along and made it all much too easy.

    Robbo
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Most of the dictionaries I checked say that whiskers are the hair on the lower part of the face especially around the cheeks and chin, while some made reference to side-whiskers as being what we now call side-burns.
     
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