In 1999 an instant classic was born when the film 10 Things I Hate About You was released, reinventing the Shakespearian classic 'The Taming of the Shrew' for the younger generation, and catapulting Heath Ledger to heartthrob status.
Whose heart didn't totally melt when Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) wooed his lady love, Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles) with this amazing song, accompanied by the school marching band:
I can't have been the only one who wished that their crush would do this at some point in their high school carer, right?!
But while the film had brilliant musical numbers, numerous actors on the cusp of stardom and some of the most quotable lines of any teen movie of the '90s, it also left a few questions: Did Joey shoot his nose spray commercial despite his bruises? Did Ms. Perky ever publish her racy romance novel? And most importantly can you ever just be "whelmed"?
Well, I may not have an answer to the first two questions, but 16 years after 10 Things I Hate About You was released, MTV has given us a long awaited answer to that thoughtful question Chastity (a.k.a. a young Gabrielle Union) posed - can you ever just be whelmed? Turns out you totally can, and it's not even unique to Europe!
According to Merriam-Webster associate editor Kory Stamper, "whelm" isn't even a new word - having been around since the 1300s, and even predating it's sister words "overwhelm" and "underwhelm"! "Whelm" initially meant to capsize or overturn something, but grew to mean “placing or throwing something over something else with the intent to engulf it or crush it,” which means, as MTV points out, you could totally whelm a hat over your head. Finally, the word evolved to mean "to bury, to submerge:"
Shakespeare himself even used the word (though he spelled slightly different) in a different play, 'The Merry Wives of Windsor,' writing:
Give fire: she is my prize, or Ocean whelme them all.
Perhaps the line in the film is a homage to Shakespeare? It would certainly make sense given all the other homages to the writer: the characters Bianca and Katerina were named after the characters in 'The Taming of the Shrew,' and were given the last name Stratford after Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon; Patrick's last name is Verona which is the birthplace of his equivalent character from the play, and their high school is named Padua, after the city the play is set in. It all adds up!
Wow, talk about a totally overwhelming revelation!
After all that intense language chat I'm off to rewatch the best movie of the late '90s, listen to Letters to Cleo on repeat, and dream about a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt learning French for me...