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Re: Obsolescence?

Posted by Woodchuck on December 04, 2002

In Reply to: Re: Obsolescence? posted by TheFallen on December 04, 2002

: : : : : : : : : I want to use the term "bitch in whelp" to mean a female dog that is pregnant but has not given birth. Is this the correct usage? I cannot find the phrase in my reference books. Thanks.

: : : : : : : : The Oxford English Dictionary says "in whelp," meaning pregnant, is obsolete, so it won't do unless, for example, you're writing a historical novel and you have a character use the expression.

: : : : : : : This is exactly the situation. Thanks.

: : : : : : Far be it from me to contradict the OED, but "in whelp" is not obsolete when referring to dogs. The term is in common usage among dog breeders to describe the behaviour and condition of a pregnant bitch that is close to parturition.

: : : : : The OED might like to hear from you if you have a recent quotation from a print source. Sometimes they revive words they deemed obsolete in an earlier edition. The most recent use cited in the OED was dated 1887, which is pretty recent for something labeled Obs., but they did so label it.

: : : : I don't have access to the OED. Are you sure it's not only the noun they are deeming obsolete?(ex. "Lion's Whelp") The verb is definitely still in use.

: : : They don't say that the noun or the verb is obsolete, only that the phrase "in whelp" is.

: : A Google search for "bitch in whelp" yielded 176 hits. An example, dated January '02, may be seen at

: : http://www.the-kennel-club.org.uk/forms/export-pedigree.pdf

: I'm a little surprised at the OED's insistence on obsolescence here too - further to Shae's Google search, dropping the bitch and just searching on "in whelp" gives 1,520 hits, though admittedly almost all from the world of dog-breeding.

It makes perfect sense that it would be limited to dog-breeding. Mares foal, cows calve, bitches whelp. I would expect "foaling" and "calving" to be limited to the world of animal husbandry, too, but that doesn't mean they are tottering on the brink of obsolescence. In the King James Bible, a lion cub is a lion's whelp, but this has fallen from usage other than as a biblical reference and was probably a figurative usage even in the 1600s.