While traveling in Turkey several years ago, I learned the meaning of the verb “whinge” from Mike Andrews, an Englishman with whom I became acquainted on a Mediterranean sailboat cruise (one of the famously inexpensive and fun “Blue Cruises” that ply the south coast of Turkey from Antalya to Fethiye). Although whinge is an English word, it is one that has sadly gained little purchase on the west side of the Atlantic. I say “sadly” because it is such a choice word for describing the discontent of certain privileged American (and British, and German, and Japanese, to name but a few) tourists who find facilities in foreign countries to come up short when compared to analogous amenities at home. (An example, which should be rendered in the snootiest and whiniest English accent you can muster: “It’s just bloody awful, in’ it? The people are so, well—there’s just no other word for it, is there—swarthy. Nobody speaks a word of English, and try as we might, it is simply not possible to find a scone or a drinkable cup of tea.”) There is, in my estimation, a delicious irony to be found in the notion that the English, of all people, would lodge any sort of complaint about cuisine, except perhaps their own, but that is perhaps another story for another day.
(whinge: to complain or protest, particularly in an annoying or persistent manner)
Anyway, I began to clandestinely observe whingeing, and even to egg it on when the opportunity arose. On one memorable occasion, my Japanese traveling companion became quite pouty and petulant about the lackadaisical Greek approach to timeliness, especially as it pertained to our ferry, which not only arrived late to each port of call, but entirely skipped the island stop where we were to be deposited. As a result, we made a pointless round trip and had to start all over again from Athens twelve hours later. “This would never happen in Japan,” she fumed. “I am going to complain about this (‘to anyone who will listen’, I thought) and write about it in Mixi to warn anyone who is thinking of traveling to Greece.” (Mixi is like the Japanese-only version of Facebook, only more evolved.) I looked over at her from my perch atop a reclining deck chair, where I was basking in the butterscotch glow of the late afternoon Aegean sun. “So, here,” I offered. “Let me help you with your writing. It should maybe go something like this: ‘I cannot believe what an awful experience this is. I am stuck on the upper deck of a luxurious ferry, for an extra dozen hours, a cold drink at hand and Naxos on the horizon; the temperature is a balmy seventy-six, roughly thirty degrees to the correct side of Tokyo’s temperature at the moment. There is a faint sea breeze, and the gentle flapping of the blue and white Greek flag overhead. Waiters come around every so often to attend to our every need, and there is a complimentary stateroom awaiting us when we get tired of sunbathing. Also a pair of meal vouchers and a discount on our next ferry ride.’
I continued: “I can see how your friends in Tokyo will feel quite sorry for you, and be darn glad that they aren’t stuck here as well.” As I waited for her considered reply, she stared at me in a way that could only be described as “baleful”, and with that I realized that I had stumbled upon yet another English word that is woefully underutilized in the New World.
(baleful: foreboding or threatening, filled with ill intent)