Wet your Whistle is a popular idiomatic expression, which means “to drink an alcoholic beverage.”
Although a popular phrase, there are several debates concerning its origin and proper meaning, as some people use it as “Whet your Whistle”, referring to another idiomatic expression, “Whet your appetite.”
This linguistic debate has no doubt spurred many-a pub brawl, where people with overly wet whistles got loud.
“Wet your Whistle” can be traced back to the medieval classic of Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, where the phrase was first included, in the aforementioned form.
The expression is metaphoric in nature, associating a man’s lungs and respiratory system with a whistle, which blows better, when it is wet.
The debated alternate form didn’t arise until the 1600s, when the word “Whet” was introduced into the English dictionary, meaning “to sharpen.” Since then, the debate, concerning the true form of the expression has been prevailing in pubs and taverns.
“Wet your Whistle” has become a deeply engrained expression in the English language, holding out over the centuries.
It is recognized from Sydney to Edinburgh, from London to Los Angeles, equally among Brits and Americans.
Although debates still arise about its true origins, scholars have pointed to the classic of Chaucer as hard evidence, that “Wet your Whistle” doesn’t refer to an act of sharpening.