What does ‘whiffling’ mean?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: whiffling….

I’m a big fan of onomatopoeia. As you likely know, this refers to words that sound like the meaning they’re meant to represent. Here are a few examples: whoosh, drizzle, giggle, whistle, thump. (The term onomatopoeia comes from two Greek words, one meaning “name” and the other meaning “I make.”)

I added another onomatopoeic word to my vocabulary this week after finishing the award-winning novel The Break, by Katherena Vermette. The word is whiffling. Here is how the author used it:

She loves his face, his soft whiffling breath on her skin.

The verb “to whiffle” means to make a soft sound, like that of breathing or a gentle wind. It can also mean to move (or cause to move) lightly as if blown by a puff of air. In fact, there is even a whiffle ball (pictured above) with holes punctured into it so the ball will move more slowly.

The classic trademarked Wiffle Ball is for baseball and was invented by David Mullany at his home in 1953 when he designed a ball  for his 12-year-old son. It was named when his son and his friends would refer to a strikeout as a “whiff.” It’s about the same size as a regulation baseball, but is hollow, lightweight, of resilient plastic, no more than 1/8 inch thick. The ball pictured above, however, is a whiffle golf ball.

I just love the way the word whiffling sounds so much like the meaning it represents.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on July 19/17.

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