Guest Entry: Winking and Wanking

The following is a Facebook note written by my dear friend Lisa. We discussed the subject of the note a bit over dinner tonight, and I think it would be of interest to you.

For background, Lisa just got her Master’s degree in a writing-related discipline, and she spent some time studying abroad in England (the Cambridge in the entry is for Cambridge University, not Cambridge, Massachusetts). Also, she has absolutely no idea that I am posting this entry verbatim, lifted directly from Facebook.

In other words, she did not write this for my (often brutal) audience. She wrote this for fun — and I’m reposting it because I like it. (And if she wants me to remove it, it will be removed from the blog IMMEDIATELY!)

Here it is:

If the past tense of “drink” is “drank” and the past tense of “sink” is “sank”, does that mean the past tense of “wink” is “wank?” I would argue, wholeheartedly, 100% YES!

The term itself really came about this summer at Cambridge, when a short, sashay-ing Italian man of the waitstaff would consistently and without hesitation “wink” at females and males too (hey, I don’t judge). “He wank at me” was the common expression uttered over elaborate, multiple course dinners in the lavish dining hall (black or white? soup or salad?). The wanking man even received a lovely nickname from us: Winky.

Although his wanking was initially perceived as sketchy and even disturbing, I am just now thinking more deeply about the message of the wink. Usually, it does have some sort of sexual connotation, but in Winky’s case, was it more one of friendship and fellowship (Ciao!).

Done correctly, the wink CAN BE subtle, sexy, and almost mysterious. However, it’s all about the execution. It must be done with the eye ONLY: NO contortions of the face, eyebrow, or any spastic/ADD motions whatsoever. I know my limits. I’m not a wanker. I just can’t do it; my whole face wants to join in the winking fun and thus ruin the subtlety of the wink itself.

But, I don’t mind being a receiver of the wink, or advocating for bringing it back, similar to the way Justin Timberlake brought sexy back (although, that is debatable). When the wink is done right, it’s a memorable experience, not just an eye action.


12 responses to “Guest Entry: Winking and Wanking

  1. There are two typos in your friend’s Facebook. It was surely meant to be: “Although his winking was initially perceived as sketchy …”, and: “I’m not a winker”.

    But the issue as such is about two things: grammar on the one hand, social behavior on the other.

    As a grammarian I found the “wink-wank-wunk-matter” a lot more exciting than the facial expression of a hidden self-conscious, presumably too short Italian wannabe.

    So, doing a little research I found out that “wink” and “wank” actually have the same root in the Indo-Germanic word “ue-n-g-” meaning: “to bow, to make swaying movements”.
    It is a hypothetical word traced back by linguistic historians, as then – 3000 BC – no script existed in the regions between Europe and India.

    Anyway, 5000 years later we can at last distinguish – if we feel like it – between winking and wanking.

  2. Typos? I think not. And I’m not going to call you a wanker, junior.

  3. Reminds me of the old chestnut about the italian lady complaining to her friend that the laundry had ruined her best skirt:

    “I sent it to them and they shrinked … they shrunked … they have shrank … ahhh … I put on weight!”

  4. The only problem with the argument – well, actually there are two problems. One is that “wink” does not behave the same way as “drink” or “sink.” “I drank/have drunk the coffee,” or “I sank/have sunk a lot of money into this project,” but “I winked/have winked at him.”

    But the far bigger issue is that in certain parts of the world, you do NOT want to be called a wanker, nor do you ever want to use that word in polite company! See

  5. Even if people associate “to wink” with “to sink” grammatically, no one ever says, “Sanking.”

  6. kate, you’re a tool. a giant tool.

  7. A “dining hall at Cambridge” doesn’t ring true; for one thing Cambridge is a sizeable city, and the university itself is both everywhere and invisible. “The dining hall at Kings” (or Trinity, etc.) would enable one to picture her situation: i.e. at what college did she live and study?

  8. Kate, I can’t believe you posted this! HILARIOUS!

    I don’t have a blog as formal as Kate’s and my facebook posting is a lot less formal. I studied at Gonville and Caius and since few of my readers would understand that particular college and its relation to Cambridge, I kept it general.

    I still love my own creation of the past tense form, and will continue to use it among close friends (not professionals).

    SIDENOTE: Also Kate, I would love to see an entry on the morphing of words. I see it a lot from my students. For example, “all ready” becoming “already,” as well as “chilling and relaxing” becoming “chillaxing.” This opens up questions of what makes legitimate words (do you have to be J.K Rowling to get in the dictionary??).

  9. This is grammatically interesting. Sink and sank etc are “strong” verbs and so would use the appropriate “strong” past forms. Wank however, as we might reasonably expect from the meaning, is a “weak” verb… 🙂

  10. Hmmm… the common word for intercourse also uses the “weak” forms. Presumably drinking, sinking, thinking, stinking, eating, teaching, speaking, bringing, buying and seeking etc are far more important than activities of a sexual nature.

  11. stating the obvious

    Here is Kate’s NPR radio interview. If you still think this girl knows ANYTHING about grammar after listening to this, and you don’t think she’s anything less than egotistical, pretentious, self-promoting, and just plain ridiculous, there is something wrong with you. Just because you put some comma and apostrophe stickers on some signs, doesn’t make you a “grammar vandal.” What credentials does she have to viciously attack anyones grammar? She can barely answer the simple questions answered in this interview! It’s great how she goes silent after every question, and seems to ask her interviewer if her answers are correct. Pathetic. No one has perfect grammar, as we see in this blog. No one. And Especially not Kate. So, enough with this crap. Enough with this bashing blog! The people have spoken in ALL of her comments. Enough is enough, Kate.

    (oh, and I know you won’t answer this post, because you’re too good for that, just like your “favorite bloggers.” Like…Perez Hilton. Laughable.)

  12. bUzrKy hi nice site thanx

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