In law and business, this now means an employee who snitches on bad practices by co-workers (especially the higher-ups) but who is protected from recrimination by legislative provisions like s 27 of the federal Digital Privacy Act and s 66.1 of the Competition Act, or, in the US, s 922 of Dodd-Frank.

Think Edward Snowden, but without the subsequent need to live as a fugitive.

All well and good (unless you’re Edward Snowden), but I’m weary of the word.

And it’s imprecise: in a sporting match, the whistle is blown not by a player, but by the referee – so by a neutral third party rather than someone in the scrum (or what have you). Or, if the word derives from policing, the blower of the whistle is a cop, not someone directly involved in the activity giving rise to the calling of a foul.

Whistleblower does have the advantage of sounding positive, in a way that alternatives like informant or informer probably do not (much less, snitch or rat).

And it’s certainly shorter than statutory formulations like ‘Any person who has reasonable grounds to believe that a person has contravened or intends to contravene a provision of …’

But it’s still shopworn.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

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