It’s a slim, fast dog, the name of a car, a ship, a tank and a light aircraft, and also slang for recreational use of nitrous oxide in small metal containers, but where does it appear in song? It’s a snappy-sounding word that has an element of onomatopoeia about it, and feels good to speak and sing, with early 17th-century origins also as a verb, which means to move briskly, just like the name of the canines to which it most commonly refers.
Whippets make wonderful pets. They are the smaller cousin of the greyhound, were rejected for bigger hunting, and are generally non-barking, calm and friendly. But they are still able to run at 35mph, and actually have the fastest acceleration of any dog species. While there have been many famous greyhounds – dogs are often mistreated in the racing world before and especially after losing their speed, hopefully then being rescued – whippets have a lower profile. But one in particular, Ashley Whippet (1971 – 1985) gained fame in the 70s and 80s by being the first and foremost three-time winning frisbee-catching wonder, in the Canine Frisbee Disc World Championships, a sport that clearly brought nothing but joy to animals and humans. It all started in 1974 when 19-year-old student Alex Stein of Ohio smuggled himself and Ashley into the LA Dodger Stadium during a nationally televised Monday night baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds. He began throwing a frisbee for Ashley to catch, leading to the game pausing while the crowd reacted with delight. Ashley and Stein later performed at the Super Bowl in 1977, and for US president Jimmy Carter and family. A documentary of the same year, Floating Free, also captures the grace and agility of dogs doing what they do best. Ashley can be seen towards the end of this excerpt:
Aside from dogs, this word is also, presumably about speed. may also refer an early 20th century car or jeep made by US maker Willys-Overland, the British light aircraft Austin Whippet, the First World War British Medium Mark A Whippet tank, the Blériot-Whippet British four-wheeled cyclecar, ad more than one US navy ship.
A more recent definition, in slang terms, refers to the recreational use of nitrous oxide, also laughing gas, for a temporary high, inflated into balloons from small metal containers that are really designed for canisters of whipped cream, and then inhaled. If you hear that distinctive whooshing sound, and find small silver containers lying around, the likelihood is that a gang of teenagers have been messing about with balloons again. But has this, or any other definition come up in song? Here are a few examples. Feel free to add your own:
Let’s kick off with an early number by New York’s Beastie Boys from the 1989 album Paul’s Boutique, spitting out lyrics that pertain to the the nitrous oxide container:
Like Fred Flintstone driving around with bald feet
Should I have another sip no skip it
In the back of the ride and bust with the whippet
By contrast, here’s Tom Robinson with the far gentler 1990 song Blood Brother, about a troubled young man who feels like a restrained animal:
Ben was born in Lincoln County and he grew up in the fens
Teased and bullied by his brothers in a family of ten
Sociable and easygoing - helping out around the home
While his inner life ticked on like an unexploded bomb
Just waiting for his moment
Going shopping with his mother like a whippet on the leash
Always straining at the traces - out of sight and out of reach
Next up, the US rock band, Phish and Birds of a Feather, from their 1989 album The Story of the Ghost, using whippets as descriptive metaphor:
Birds of a feather are flocking outside
Like whippets they dance in a curly-queue dance
Of pulses and ringing and campfire chants
Of ritual drumming although at first glance
You thought you could run but you won't take a chance
And finally, a silly example, more of a kid’s song by Caspar Babypants aka US children's music artist Chris Ballew, picked only because of its amusing title, and with whippets occurring in a list lyric format:
Sharp Pei, Shih Tzu, Shiba Inu
Whippet, Weimaraner two by two
So then, are there any more examples of whippets in song? Any fabulous or obscure folk numbers about the dog, or sightings of modes of transport of bygone eras, or more nitrous oxide use? Feel free to unleash your inner whippet, and post examples below. in song, film, art, or any other references below.
Want to suggest other examples of this word in song lyrics, or other unusual words or contexts? Does this song make you think of something else? Then feel free to comment below, on the contact page, or on social media: Song Bar Twitter, Song Bar Facebook. Song Bar YouTube. Please subscribe, follow and share.
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