When people talk about enticing you, they aren’t talking about making you drool. The question about how do you spell “whetting” your appetite comes up often, and I think it often comes back to confusion about that saliva.
You see something delicious and you salivate. Sure, I get it, but that has nothing to do with this expression.
- To “whet”—as in “to whet your appetite,” the correct spelling of the phrase—is an old word that doesn’t pop up frequently in day-to-day conversation unless you’re talking about this one expression. The Old English form of this word was related to literal sharpening. Think of medieval instruments and weapons. Those could be whetted. (Yikes.) Its metaphorical sense, as in whetting one’s desire, didn’t come to be until roughly the 15th century.
- To “wet” means to dampen or maybe even soak. Or, something can be wet, meaning to be damp, moist, drenched, dripping, soaked, water-logged—you get the idea.
If you think about something mouth-watering, food-related or not, we’re talking about something whetting your appetite. Don’t let any drool involved confuse you.
Writing Tip 371.2 – To “wet your whistle” is worth a note, because it’s actually the opposite of “whetting your appetite.” A whet appetite is stimulated. To wet one’s whistle, on the other hand, is to have a thirst fully quenched.
This expression comes from the idea of your whistle, or more specifically your mouth or lips that allow you to whistle, being wet by a drink. Usually, the drink is alcoholic. There is nothing about whetting (i.e., sharpening) involved. Or at least I hope not.
I’m glad we have that settled, folks.
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