There are a lot of common phrases that people use without even giving much thought to them today. One of those phrases is to “get wind of something.” Have you ever heard someone say this to you and paused long enough to wonder what they’re trying to say?
When someone says they “get wind of something” they’re basically telling you that they’ve managed to overhear some information that another person was trying to keep quiet. In other words, they’ve accidentally overheard someone’s secret and now they’re about to pass that secret on to you.
Origin of the Phrase
Nobody really knows for sure where the idiom “get wind of something” originated from. However, it’s believed that people have been using this phrase since the first half of the 1800s.
The idiom itself comes from the animal world. Some think that it came about because animals are able to become aware of scents that are traveling through the air. Animals also have a tendency of smelling the wind just so they can tell what other animals are located near them.
Meaning of the Phrase
The phrase “get wind of something” is an idiom that’s used to mean that you’ve learned about or heard about something through a rumor or an unofficial source. In other words, you’ve come to know about something that other people are trying to keep secretive. For instance, if you “got wind of impending layoffs at your job,” this means that the company hasn’t yet officially said that they were going to lay off some employees, but there are rumors that people will be laid off floating around.
This is a somewhat popular phrase because when you stop to think about it, this truly is how every great rumor gets spread: The wrong person manages to get wind of the right gossip. When this happens it’s either because you’ve heard a rumor that’s being spread or you’re starting to suspect that something is about to happen.
Although this phrase always has the same meaning, it can be used a bit differently depending upon what contexts it’s used in. For instance, it can also mean that you’ve:
- Learned of something, especially with respect to facts that should have been kept confidential or secretive
- Received information
- Been made aware of something
- Discovered some information because you’ve carefully searched for or investigated it
- Sensed the presence, existence, or fact that something is about to happen
- Heard something
There are other words that you can use instead of the phrase, “get wind of something.” These include to discern, recognize, and sense. Other sayings also mean the same as this one. A popular one is to “hear through the grapevine.” Others include to:
- Hear about
- Learn of
- Find out about
- Become aware of
- Be told about
- Be informed of
- Be made aware of
Regardless of how you say it, what you don’t want to say is that you missed, overlooked, disregarded, ignored, or forgot something.
What Idioms Are
There are approximately 25,000 idioms used throughout the English language. Idioms are phrases or expressions that present figurative, non-literal meanings. Sometimes an idiom may become figurative while also retaining its literal meaning. In either case, these are formulated as formulaic language meaning that their figurative meaning differs from their literal meaning. For instance, to “get wind of something” literally may seem as though the wind is delivering something to you but in reality, this phrase means that you’ve overheard something.
May idioms were meant literally when they were originally used. However, sometimes this attribution of the literal meaning changed as the phrase itself changed. When this happened it’d typically lead to folk etymology. An example of this is “spill the beans” (a saying that like “get wind of something” also pertains to secrets in this case the revealing of such secrets). This originated from an ancient method of voting in which a bean was put into a cup to indicate who they favored. If the jar were accidentally spilled prior to the formal counting being complete, you’d be able to see which candidate was favored. Over time this method of voting was replaced by more modern means of voting but the idiom continued in a figurative way.
Some idioms are deliberately figurative. For instance, you may tell someone to “break a leg” when you’re wishing them good luck prior to a performance or presentation. This idiom probably arose from the superstition that you shouldn’t tell someone “good luck” because doing so may cause them to actually have bad luck.
How Idioms are Used
Idioms are mainly used to give dynamism and character to speech. However, there are a few other things you can use them for, including to:
- Express a complex idea in a simple way: This is because idioms are able to express large or abstract ideas in ways that are succinct and easy to understand. For instance, if you want to say that it’s impossible to compare two things to one another because they possess different traits or meanings you may simply use the idiom “comparing apples to oranges.”
- Add humor to your writing: Idioms can bring flat descriptions to life through the use of humor. For instance, if you want to say that someone isn’t very smart, you may say “he isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.” Not only does this convey that he isn’t very intelligent but the comparison itself is both unexpected and humorous.
- Stimulate your reader: When you take the time to insert an idiomatic phrase into your writing you’re consciously making the effort to have your reader make the switch from literal thinking to abstract thinking. Doing so will help keep your reader both focused and excited since they’re being encouraged to activate the conceptual part of their brain so that they can understand what you’re trying to say by using the idiom here. For instance, when you say that you’ve “got wind of something” you’re encouraging your reader to think about this visual image in their head. This will help them become more engaged with your writing.
- Establish a viewpoint: There are some idioms that are used to covey a commonly shared or universal idea. This is why you’ll oftentimes discover that there are dozens of idioms that literally all mean the same thing. What makes the major difference here is your choice of idioms as each of them may convey a completely different attitude about the subject itself. For instance, you’ll find that there are many different idioms that have to do with death. When you write that someone “passed away” you’re talking about death in a graceful, delicate manner. However, you could also say that someone “kicked the bucket” which is a much harsher and cruder way of saying the same thing. Both of these idioms have the same meaning but they’re used to convey completely different attitudes.
- Evoke a specific region: Some idioms are unique to different parts of the world. For instance, an idiom that’s commonly used in the southern part of the United States to mean that something either doesn’t work or doesn’t make sense is “that dog won’t hunt.” Then in Britain, some people will say a “dog’s dinner” when they’re referring to a mess. Strategically using these idioms in your fiction writing can give it a regional flavor and help to make your characters more authentic.
Examples of how to use the Phrase
Now that you have a better understanding of what this phrase means and how you can use it, you may want to start using it in some of your conversations. Here are some examples of sentences that’ll help you get started:
- If you get wind of where Samantha is, let me know.
- It’s important that he doesn’t get wind of the search warrant prior to it being executed.
- If I catch wind of any more of your misbehaving in school, you’ll be grounded for a month.
- We can’t let our competitors get wind of our plans.
- I don’t want anyone to get wind of the fact that I’m leaving.
- You’d better hope that the media doesn’t get wind of this.
- If she were to get wind of this she’d be livid.
- When Suzanne misbehaves in school her parents get wind of it before she gets home.
- They’re sure to get wind of the operation beforehand.
- It’s important to get wind of military information at an early stage.
To “get wind of something” is a very common saying today. This is probably because we’ve all overheard something at some time. So, while we may not know exactly where this saying originated, one thing is for sure: It’s a saying that’s going to be with us for quite a while.