July 17, 2009


From The Shorter OED, 5th Ed.


A. Intrans. verb
1 Especially of an infant: cry feebly, whimper — Late Mid. E.
2 mew verb (as from a cat)

B. Noun
A thin cry, a whimper — Mid 19 C.

From The New Century Dictionary (1940)
mewl: To cry as a young child: as, "The infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms" (Shakespeare's "As You Like It," ii. 7. 144).

Recent Use:
[Minnesota U.S. Senate candidate Norm Coleman] lost to a man who starred in the movie "Stuart Saves His Family," as the simpering self-help guru who mewled the daily affirmation "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!"

From "Enter Laughing: Senator Franken's long journey," — John Colapinto, The Political Scene, The New Yorker, July 20, 2009, 28.

Al Franken on SNL, as
Stewart Smalley
Fans of "Saturday Night Live" know that the hero of the film "Stuart Saves Family" is Stuart Smalley, the
"simpering self-help guru"confected by Al Franken during his days as a comedian but who is now the junior senator from Minnesota. He defeated defeating Norm Coleman by 312 votes, finally, after a number of recounts, on June 30th. of this year.

The word is frequently used the participial form, as in Shakespeare's memorable rhyme mewling and puking.

What about mewler? Is that a word?

I got to wondering if the OED referenced a derivative noun mewler, which I would understand to mean an annoying person who tends to whine and pule (the latter of which is mewl in its "literary" mode). The OED does cite mewler but marks it as obsolete and rare.

I say we rise up to revive mewler, using it to describe whiny political commentators on cable news programs: "Did you hear those crooning mewlers from the old Wall Street complaining on Fox News about Obama's reform proposals?"

As noted in other postings, a word invented for a specific occasion or situation, such as my mewler, is known among word mavins as a nonce term.


1 comment:

  1. So that's what Millie my cat does!
    She mewls! It's never been a real "mee-yow" sound but whining vocalizations. Millie, the Mewler!
    Thanks for the addition to my vocabulary, John.