• Paul Anthony Jones

Whang

(n.) a neighbourhood house-cleaning party



Do you really want to know what all the definitions of the word whang are? No? Good. Because you can always check out that sort of thing on Urban Dictionary, if you really want to know. (Though surprisingly, using whang to mean—y’know, what most people will probably think it means, dates back to the early 1500s.)


Here at HH, though, a whang is something a little different. In fact, it’s a house-cleaning, in which all the members of a neighbourhood rally round to help someone spring clean their home.



In this sense, whang dates back almost two centuries, to the slangy chatter of early nineteenth-century America, New England in particular. According to the seventh volume of the monumental turn-of-the-century dictionary Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present, “formerly, in Maine and some other parts of New England” a whang was “a gathering of neighbours to aid one of their number in cleaning a house.”


Although slangy inventions like this are notoriously tricky to account for, etymologically there’s a good chance this meaning is related to the use of whang as a verb, meaning to do or move something at great haste, which dates from the seventeenth century.

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