We Solved The Most Enduring Mystery Of '10 Things I Hate About You'

Yes, you can be whelmed. Even outside of Europe.

We know that we only love our Skechers because we don't have a Prada backpack, but there are other questions raised by the 1999 classic movie "10 Things I Hate About You" that aren't answered quite so easily.

It's a question that's been nagging at us ever since Gabrielle Union, as Bianca's (Larisa Oleynik) well-meaning spaghetti-strapped friend Chastity, first posed it 16 years ago: you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?


Well, prepare to have your mind blown. We asked the dictionary about this mystery, and the dictionary came back and loud and clear: you can totally just be whelmed. It's not even exclusive to Europe, though it did get its roots there.

As Merriam-Webster associate editor Kory Stamper explained to MTV News via email, "whelmed" actually predates its more commonly found cousins, overwhelmed and underwhelmed.

According to Stamper, "whelm" first entered the English language as a verb in the 1300s, meaning to capsize or overturn something. Eventually, it shifted to mean "placing or throwing something over something else with the intent to engulf it or crush it." You could whelm a hat over your head.



Language, as it is wont to do, kept evolving. Next, Stamper said, "'whelm" took on another, more dire, meaning: 'to bury, to submerge.' This was an extension of the earlier 'flip over and cover' meaning with a touch of the 'engulf or crush' sense."

William Shakespeare, whose "The Taming of the Shrew" is the source material for "10 Things I Hate About You," even used the word in this sense in "The Merry Wives of Windsor," meaning the movie's dialogue may be a little wink at the play. (Or maybe just meaning that Bianca's kind of a goof.)

"Give fire: she is my prize, or Ocean whelme them all," Shakespeare wrote, drowning on the mind.

Eventually, Stamper said, the meaning of "whelm" became synonymous with "overwhelm," which entered English use in the 1400s, tracked happily in meaning with "whelm," then, well, overwhelmed it.

Meanwhile, "underwhelm" didn't enter English printed materials until 1948, according to Stamper, and was modeled after "overwhelm." Teamwork makes the dream work.

So there you have it. Are you whelmed?

Next up, we'll investigate whether owning a pair of black underwear really means you want to have sex someday.