One Word: Whisk

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Casting about for a write-worthy word, my eyes fell on a whisk broom.

“Whisk” – it occurs to me – is a wonderful word. It’s short (I like that), familiar (I like that, too), and vivid, by which I mean it conjures up a bright mental image. (I particularly like that.)


Perhaps best of all, it doesn’t seem – for now – to be overworked, worn-out, trite, or too trendy.

It can therefore add punch to our speech and writing. Assuming we use it sparingly and in moderation.

Words like “whisk” are like salt: They can add flavor, ideally by intensifying the flavor that’s already there. Overdo them, though, and they ruin the dish.

To whisk something is to move it quickly from one place to another, or in a particular direction. To whisk something away, for instance.

It also means to stir rapidly, as when we use a kitchen whisk to whisk eggs or whisk batter.

“Whisk” is our modernized version of the Middle English word “wisk”. According to Merriam-Webster, the latter is of Scandinavian origin.

Even today, there’s a laundry detergent called Wisk. Launched in 1956 by Unilever, it was the first liquid laundry detergent.

Those of us with really long memories still try (with mixed success) to forget the Wisk “ring around the collar” TV commercials. These ads shamed wives who let their husbands leave for work with hard-to-treat collar stains. Stains supposedly removable with Wisk.

Did those ads sell a ton of Wisk? You bet they did! Thank God, though, that any such campaign would be whisked off the air today. It would be rightly reviled on social media, on account of its degrading stereotyping and emotional blackmail.

I know, I know: I love to mock “political correctness”. That’s something I was doing even before it became politically correct to do so.

But good riddance to “ring around the collar”!

Wisk was relaunched and rebranded in 2010 by Sun Products, after Unilever sold it. Today it boasts of its “stain fighting science” or something like that.

Can’t help wondering, though: Does it still whisk out collar stains? Maybe I’ll try that myself – if Cheri ever lets me near the laundry room.

(This article is part of my series on words that are #worth1000pictures.)


One Word: Whisk — 4 Comments

    • Why not? Unless the spelling should be “whisky”. In some circles that’s a sensitive question.

      Regarding kitchen whisks: Normally these are fairly large, suitable for stirring a big bowl of batter. But Cheri and I own a tiny one — about the length of one’s finger — designed for stirring tea or coffee. Our friend Julie once referred to this as a “whisky”. (Or maybe she said “whiskey” — I couldn’t quite tell.) (The “-y” suffix in English sometimes indicates a diminutive version of the word it modifies. Same with “ie” as in “doggie”.)

    • Thanks, Grace. Yes, wordy is a word: It describes speech or writing that uses too many words.

      The original, archaic meaning was simply “consisting of words”. The modern synonym might be “verbal”, which literally means “in the form of words”. Contrary to what I once thought, “verbal” can refer either to written or spoken words. It thus differs from “oral” communication, which means spoken.

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