Blowing..... the Whistle.

What is the origin of the term “Whistle Blower” used to describe someone who reports an unlawful act??

So far, all I can tell you is that MW places the coinage back to 1970.

The entry also says this:

: one who reveals something covert or who informs against another {pledges to protect whistle–blowers who fear reprisals – Wall Street Journal}

I don’t know if they just use the quote for an example of if that’s the first known use of the term.

Back at the start of this century they were called “muckrakers”. The Victorians were far more creative with the English language.

Papa, i think ‘muckraker’ applies more to an outsider, a reporter or such. Upton Sinclair.
‘Whistle blower’ is an insider, an employee of a co. doing a no no. The whistle blower laws are supposed to protect them from retaliation from their employer if they “blow the whistle”. yeh sure. Sorry this doesn’t answer why “whistle blower” instead of finger pointer. We understand what it means but is it from sports? traffic cops?

Your right, mr. john. The distinction escaped me. I suspect that the term for whistle blower at the start of the century was probably “unemployed”!

A WAG, but I’d speculate that it originally derives from a sports referee blowing his whistle to indicate a rules infraction.

I am not gonna argue with you Mike but what about a cop blowing a whistle, a train blowing a whistle? Both warnings. OR , and I like this, A factory or mine blowing its whistle as a warning? At least that gets it into the workplace. I haven’t been able to find an etymoligy for this in any of the online dictionaries I know of.

Back already. Just thought of this. Wasn’t there some famous assembly line where the workers could stop the line if they saw something wrong by blowing the whistle?

You’re probably thinking of Saturn, where any worker can stop the assembly line by pulling a lever. They had an ad about it.

But this was long after “whistle-blower” had entered the language.

Ok…the part of a referee blowing the whistle to indicate a rules infraction seems plausable but didn’t the phrase start long before the practice of whistling down and infraction? … LIGHT BULB GOES ON Didn’t police in the old days, before the days of sirens (when they used to walk a beat) have whistles to draw attention to themselves? Any thoughts on this one???

You sound reasonable…it must be time to up my medication

Once again, Mirriam-Webster says it was coined in 1970. I think the NFL was around then.

“Muckraker” was an allusion to Pilgrim’s Progress, and intended as an insult by the fat-cat guardians of the status quo who used it. As with “Democrat” (Jefferson originally called his party “Republican”), those to whom the term was applied accepted it as a badge of honor.

But “muckraker” normally meant a journalist, not an insider.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams