Robin in Young Justice discussed people are either overwhelmed or underwhelmed but nobody is being whelmed.

Is this a reference to something else or any historic significance of the absence of whelmed?

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    Chastity: I know you can be underwhelmed, and you can be overwhelmed, but can you ever just be, like, whelmed? Bianca: I think you can in Europe. From 10 Things I Hate About You. – Rebecca J. Stones Dec 30 '19 at 4:38
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    Although this question is inspired by a TV series, it is not a question about TV, but the English language. As such, it is off topic here and on topic at English Language and Usage Stack Exchange. – CJ Dennis Dec 31 '19 at 0:11
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    similarly, why are people normally never said to be gruntled? – Michael Dec 31 '19 at 0:18
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    I am ebriated enough to parage your ept and scrutable analysis. It is truly gusting. – Robert Columbia Dec 31 '19 at 2:08
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this seems to be an english language question – DForck42 Jan 5 '20 at 3:12

I saw this question asked on the English SE (reproduced accepted answer below as a quote) which indicates that "Whelm" is simply no longer in use.

In terms of Young Justice, it's likely meant as a joke/throwaway line to draw attention to an oddity of language rather than anything majorly significant.

Whelm is labeled as "archaic" in NOAD, as it has fallen out of use. Left in its wake are the would-be superlative overwhelm (which, rather than actually meaning "more than whelmed", has simply taken over its parent's definition) and its opposite underwhelm.

The only contact I've had with the word has been in the hymn The Solid Rock:

His oath, his covenant, his blood support me in the whelming flood.

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    Indeed "underwhelmed" relies on the original meaning of "whelm" being forgotten. "Whelmed" basically means covered, buried or drowned. Adding "over-" to that is just reinforcing those meanings (in the sense of "covering over", not "too much"). "Underwhelm" doesn't give the desired result if "whelm" can be analyzed; it only works as an antonym. – hobbs Dec 30 '19 at 4:41
  • @hobbs Similarly, a phrase like “my whelm was very much under” rely on not only the meaning of whelm being forgotten, but even it’s word class. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 31 '19 at 1:21


Whelm is an olde Englyshe verb meaning "to cover" or "overturn". It has fallen out of use in modern linguistics.

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