whopper

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whopper

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Feb 11, 2005 6:23 am

This is in response to Julie Kay’s earlier question in the posting ‘kinds of lies.’
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WHOPPER first meant something uncommonly large of its kind, a very big thing, animal, or person. It is said to have derived from the verb ‘whop’ (1575) or ‘wap’ meaning to beat, strike, or thrash soundly, from the Middle English verb ‘whappen,’ which was an alteration of ‘wappen,’ to throw, strike, blow in gusts (possibly imitative of the sound). The idea of beating and striking, probably became associated with its being inflicted by someone or something large and, in fact, ‘whapper’ was defined in a 1785 dictionary as a large man or women. The adjective form ‘wapping’ (or ‘whopping) actually appeared first, however, in 1625.
<~1625 “Our Chroniclers . . . stowed their volumes with WAPPING Tales of my Lord Maiors Horse.”—‘Stanley Papers’(Chetham society) by R. G., I, page 50>

<1706 “See him in bad Weather, in his Fur-Cap and WHAPPING large Watch-Coat.”— ‘The Wooden World Dissected, in the Characters of a Ship of War’ (1708) by E. Ward, page 98>

<1785 ‘WHAPPER,’ a large man or woman.”—‘Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue’ by Grose>

<1787 ‘WHAPPER,’ any thing large, a thumper.”—‘Prov. Glossary>

<1834 “We had to pass some WHOPPERS, . . . but nothing would suit Nelson but this four-decked ship.”—‘Peter Simple’ by Marryat, xxxv>

<1854, “We killed the fox—my eyes, such a WOPPER!”—‘Handley Cross; or The Spa Hunt’ by R. S. Surtees, xv>>
Very shortly after ‘whopper’ (1791) was used specifically to indicate a ‘large’ lie.
<1791 “Some do affirm—sure 'tis a WHAPPER! Thou'rt silver plated upon.”—‘Poems’ by Nairne, page 93>

<1870 “He thinks it's . . . better to get a licking than to tell a WHOPPER.”—‘My Schoolboy Friends’ by A. R. Hope, xiv>
(Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster's and Random HOuse Unabridged Dictionaries)

February 10, 2005
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