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Whistle for it

Posted by R. Berg on November 17, 2003

In Reply to: Whistle for it & Whistlin' Dixie posted by Lotg on November 16, 2003

: Last night, someone used both of these terms in the one sentence. In fact I think he confused himself and changed midstream. Anyway, I've searched the archives and found both mentioned before independently, but I was wondering if they're related. ie. Whistle for it, evolved from Whistle Dixie? Any ideas?

Not from "whistling Dixie." The OED cites "whistle for" as early as 1605 in the sense of awaiting something in vain, doing without. There was no Dixie then. For this expression, the OED refers readers to a note about "the common superstitious practice among sailors to whistle for a wind during a calm, and to refrain from whistling during a gale." It stops short of declaring that that was the origin, though.