Word-lovers hunger for facts About Language. In books like this, however, they are served lexical junk-food. Beguiled reviewers take M Jacot's words as his own. He copies from dictionaries, so he can blame them. His count of Albanian words for eyebrow and mustache sounds like the story of all those Eskimo words for snow. Some refinement of the data is in order.
Smoking and Whiffling. M Jacot makes a confused gloss on "smoking":
"In feudal times, drink actually meant to "smoke tobacco." Feudal Europe -- from A.D. 800 to the 1400s -- I needn't tell you, knew not tobacco. The first Americans indeed spoke of "drinking" tobacco. But in their sauna or sweat-lodge Bronze Age and earlier Eurasians, too, sucked up fumes from plants such as cannabis. After 1492 the Spanish took up the tobacco pipe from, of course, the American Indians. From Spain Muslims took up the habit and translated the words into Arabic. So, during Ramadan the cops in Cairo will bust you if they catch you smoking tobacco (too) before sundown, since in the fasting month the Koran proscribes day-time eating or "drinking" The same Arabic verb serves for orally inhaling fluids or fumes.
WHIFFLER. Swaggerers were dubbed whifflers. Even the august Oxford English Dictionary makes a mess of things sometimes. Taking whiffler as "one who whiffles" is an inversion of history. The old nouns in -er are not from verbs but from nouns. The noun here is "whiffle". In Old English a "wifel" (pronounced wiffle) is an ax; in Middle English it's written wyfle. Whifflers were ceremonial bearers of whiffles - axes. On Google see the resplendent Swiss Guards or London Tower Beefeaters with their glinting halberds. Imposing ax-toters cut a fine figure in court processions. The same word in German is "Weibel"; for a sergeant-at-arms; "Feldwebel" is a corporal in the army.
What whiffling meant in England George Borrow tells us in 1857 in "Romany Rye":
"Nobody can use his fists without being taught the use of them, ... no more than any one can `whiffle' without being taught by a master of the art... The last of the whifflers hanged himself about a fortnight ago ... there being no demand for whiffling since the discontinuation of Guildhall banquets; ... let any one take up the old chap's sword and try to whiffle."-- The sorry whiffler, before his art went out of fashion, was a flashy performer with blades.
Did whiffling also mean "smoking"? As guests were departing after a fine Christmas dinner many years ago, a kid I knew cried bitterly disappointed to his mother: "You said we were having company for Christmas. You cooked turkey." The OED editor of the entry WHIFFLE duplicated the boy's logic when he defined whiffling as smoking. OED's glossar was thrown into confusion like the kid with his turkey when Horace Smith in "Tin Trumpet" (1869) compared feeble little volcanoes to mighty Aetna and Vesuvius. The point of comparison in Smith's metaphor was not the smoke-belching of the eruption, but the awe, or lack of it. To stogie-puffing pettifoggers a cigar is not just a cigar.