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Chris -- 2018-04-11

#1 2007-07-06 18:48:42

From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

"whittle one's way into" for "wheedle one's way into"

This one was inspired by the recent “whittle/widdle” discussion. The OED defines “to wheedle” as “To entice or persuade by soft flattering words; to gain over or take in by coaxing or cajolery.” Wheedling is often a slow process requiring patience, and it can proceed bit by bit – much like whittling away at a piece of wood. A similar, non-eggcornish phrase with an almost identical structure – “to whittle one’s way through something” (such as a plate of oysters, a bunch of opponents on the other team, a stack of paperwork) – may be reinforcing the use of “to whittle one’s way into.”

The Database has whittle down>> wheedle down (, but not wheedle>>whittle. The Database article says, “The unfamiliarity of whittling probably played a role in the substitution of ‘wheedle’ for ‘whittle’.” I was surprised by the implicit claim that “wheedle” is more familiar to the average speaker. At the moment, there are 3930k hits for “whittle” as opposed to 233k for “wheedle.” Of course, part of the reason there are so many more hits for “whittle” is that there are clubs and websites for whittling, but not for wheedling. But it’s precisely that widespread interest in whittling that helps make it – as far as I can tell – the more common word.

Examples for “whittle one’s way into”:

“The kids always whittled their way into his heart,” said his daughter, Kathleen Oestreich of Bristol Township. … 47404.html

Mostly occupying the slower weekday nights, open mics in the Truckee Meadows have whittled their way into the standard routine of many a Reno performer and audience member alike.

As the leader of the ’80s college rock band Camper Van Beethoven, David Lowery was an alternative forefather who created innovative ways to incorporate worldly sounds into his band’s strain of quirky pop rock. Cranky violins whittled their way into carnivalesque melodies, while Middle Eastern flavors and odd sounds peppered each song’s nonsensical scenarios.

In the end he whittled his way into the underworld, at first as an enforcer. … e=backlash

Death cab for Cutie slowly whittled their way into my life last year after me being horribly obssesed with The Postal Service



#2 2007-07-06 20:11:11

Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 1455

Re: "whittle one's way into" for "wheedle one's way into"

Eggcorn finds always seem to inspire additional eggcorn possibilities. The next notion that came to my mind after reading your title was “WEASEL one’s way into.” Usually the term is “weasel one’s way OUT” (by evasive means), but the utterers below seem to mean “wheedle” while adapting the “weasel” concept…

Socrates’s Sketchbook -I have learned, in trying to weasel one’s way into full classes, that one can never underestimate the power of one’s personal charm. ... – 25k – Supplemental Result – Cached – Similar pages

What if the goal in Iraq is neither oil or Democrary???? [Archive …It certainly doesn’t exonerate a superpower from its intervention in foreign affairs, but there are a hundred ways to weasel one’s way into steering … – 219k – Supplemental Result – Cached – Similar pages

Last edited by jorkel (2007-07-06 20:17:55)



#3 2007-07-08 04:24:03

From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: "whittle one's way into" for "wheedle one's way into"

That’s excellent—I’ve heard both “weasel your way out of” and “weasel your way into” all my life, but it never occurred to me to wonder whether the latter case was a reshaping of “wheedle.” They’re wonderfully parallel structures, but I think you’re probably right—and I actually find your find more interesting than my own.



#4 2017-05-22 11:00:20

From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2154

Re: "whittle one's way into" for "wheedle one's way into"

Another variation:

Barney wheels his way into his owner’s heart – Orange County Register […]This is the life story of my dog, Barney. While
passing a pet shop one day, I saw a family returning a small puppy. I watched as those big, brown,

Mr Popular wheels his way into hearts […] He has a mischievous glint in his eyes. His best friends claim he is the brain behind all their pranks. His popularity quotient is high

Brenda tried to wheel her way back into Bethany’s life by allowing to drop Bethany off at nursery, but Sarah still refused to let Brenda see her

Several of these probably don’t have prototypical wheedling in mind, but rather something like “surreptitiously(/smoothly) achieve access” (as in the third example above). But wheedle can come close to that in many usages, and that meaning fits many “wheedle” contexts well enough.

*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)



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