Whelm

12 March 2018

Whelm – to turn over or capsize

Which I love. Obviously, this is where we get “overwhelm“, which for me has a connotation of inundation.

All good, but here’s the thing that’s making me happy today: “underwhelm“. It’s a somewhat ironic coinage, and it turns out to be older than you might expect (1934). Pondering “whelm” on the bus this morning, though, it struck me that “underwhelm” has a ghost meaning to go with the literal meaning of “overwhelm”.

If:

Overwhelm – to cover completely, overpower; to capsize by force of flow.

then:

Underwhelm – to capsize by withdrawal; to suffer (or inflict) a reversal by removing what is beneath.

Fun :)


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