Kindly exlpain the phrase "from overwhelm to whelm" from the following sentence.

"In future we'll have new services to help us bring that universe from overwhelm to whelm". https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-future-of-email-as-far-as-business-communication-is-concerned

My research showed that this is not a set expression. The word "whelm" means to turn upside down or to overcome in thought or feeling. The main definition of the verb overwhelm is to affect (someone) very strongly. But still have no glue about the sentence in general.

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    It's not supposed to be a "grammatical" usage - it's just a bit of wordplay loosely "punning" on the fact that e-communications (particularly, spam and such) are becoming overwhelming, whereas to most people there is no such word as whelm. The writer is thus "inventing" a neologism that's intended to be the opposite of overwhelm. He's probably unaware that plain whelm is effectively just the obsolete version of overwhelm, but that doesn't matter if his readers are either also unaware, or prepared to overlook that minor discrepancy anyway. Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 13:55
  • Thanks. Your answer made this a bit easier now) So does that mean that future services will help us to make e-communications more supportable? or should I use any other words? Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 14:40
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    You can use whatever words you like to convey whatever you want to say. I'm just telling you why that blogger used the term "from overwhelm to whelm" even though superficially it's just gibberish. I didn't read the entire blog post, but I'd have to say making e-comms more supportable is unlikely/weird phrasing. Better would be manageable (or perhaps bearable or similar). Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 14:52
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    Echoing @Fumblefingers: the author seems to suggest that the new services will change that universe from overwhelming to merely whelming -- something we can deal with rather than something we can only stare at helplessly. Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 18:19
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    A similar play on words I've heard is "underwhelm," meaning that whatever the subject is, you were less than impressed with it. Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 19:00

1 Answer 1


Well, obviously "overwhelm" refers to being buried or drowning in something that we feel is beyond us such as the "universe" that the site refers to. To "whelm" is to overcome a situation or the difficulties we face in handling the situation. So basically, what the site implies is that new communication services in the future will help us go from not being able to handle the situation/s to becoming able to overcome the situation and understand it. Hope this helps

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    Where did you get that definition of "whelm"?
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 22:23

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