Clean as a Whistle

Contents: Meaning | Origin | Spread

Meaning

What does Clean as a Whistle mean?

Clean as a whistle is a popular simile, which is used to express the thorough, and swift completion of a task at hand.

Ie.: He chopped off the branch, clean as a whistle.

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Origin

What's the origin of Clean as a Whistle?

“Clean as a whistle” has a long trajectory of development, originating in the 18th century.

The first written record of a similar phrase can be found in The Monthly Review for October 1773, where “Clear as a whistle” is found in the “Miscellaneous Poems” by John Byrom, where the expression is alluding to the clear sound of a whistle.

By the turn of the 19th century, both the form and the meaning of the phrase had shifted, with “Clean as a whistle” was used in a sense of a thorough job done.

Spread & Usage

How did Clean as a Whistle spread?

“Clean as a whistle” gained a significant presence by the 1850’s and its presence was ever growing, well into the 20th century as well.

The idiom has been adopted by several authors, poets, and actors, appearing in all sorts of contexts, including literary works, music, movies as well as television series.

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