The Lost Art of Whistling

The organic use of communication called the whistle has been around for a while. The original tweet probably was expressed by a caveman. He may have accidentally whistled while dashing home for supper. Later, it alerted his clan to imminent danger, meaning, “Dude! Look out for those crazed and hungry mastodons behind you!” Dinosaurs are extinct and the whistle is increasing in rarity.

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When I was a kid, I heard a whistle nearly every day.

My dad loved to imitate birds, even warblers. After hearing one summon a mate from a faraway tree, he would whistle to it for kicks and giggles. It would fly closer and closer. This nasty trick worked best on cardinals. Imagine their disappointment when the poor bird discovered it was only stupid human producing the intoxicating siren call and not a voluptuous feathered friend.

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What?

We relied on the whistle’s unique intonations for communication long before the invention of cell phones or the telephone for that matter. It could mean, “Hey! I’m over here!” or the dreaded, “Honey, you are one hot smokin’ babe!” or “EVERYBODY, SHUT UP!”

Many whistle to the melody of a song stuck in their head. It used to be the only mobile way to reproduce the latest hit tune. When my children lived at home, I found myself whistling to just about anything including commercial ditties. Soon, they wore noise-cancelling headphones.

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You still hear whistles at sporting events, concerts, and at graduation ceremonies. It means, “Woohoo! I am really enjoying myself!” and “You rock!”

Its imminent demise is obvious when looking up the meaning of whistleblowing. The Free Dictionary states:

Whistleblower n. One who reveals wrongdoing within an organization to the public or to those in positions of authority.

Soon no one will know the difference between a “Hey! I’m right behind you!” and a cat call. Although, the latter extinction may not come soon enough.

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Learning to whistle was a rite of passage along with tying shoe laces and riding a bike. It has been replaced by learning to text and tweet on a smart phone.

When children want to get their friend’s attention,  they dig their cellular out from under the juice box in their Mutant Ninja Turtle backpack and text the kid in front of them. “Dude, slow down! : P”

Summoning a teenager from their slovenly bedroom for dinner has been replaced by a text from mom or dad. No one whistles for kids out their back door since they are usually indoors playing video games.

The family dog may be the only stronghold. They seem unphased by recent technological advancements. By using any of the above techniques, not only will one find the results quite favorable, but you may also obtain a positive response from the neighbor’s dog.

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Who knew a person could look badass while whistling?

The whistle is becoming a lost art. If we don’t practice, it could become an ancient artifact including the VCR, cassette tapes, and the rotary telephone.

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Don’t know how to whistle? It’s never too late to learn.

  1. The most common whistle technique is to purse your lips making a little “o”, suck in your cheeks, and blow.
  2. Pressing your thumb and forefinger together and putting them in your mouth has been known to produce a piercing whistle that could leave an unsuspecting listener with hearing damage. See warnings below.
  3. There is also the two-fisted approach where the whistler takes their index fingers and hooks them into the corners of their mouth creating a wind tunnel, but operator error has been known to misfire a saliva ball.

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My friend Lori taught me a new technique

Whistle warnings:

  • Refrain from whistling loudly in someone’s ear. It is generally not appreciated.
  • You may find yourself short of breath after whistling for a long time.
  • Whistling is not recommended when your lips are chapped or dry because, ouch!  

I beg of you, please consider this request. Set your phone down, put your lips together, and blow!

Sexiest whistleblower ever:

 
Can you whistle?
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About susielindau

I am a Boulder, Colorado writer and artist who loves adventure both real and imagined. Come with me. It's always a Wild Ride!
This entry was posted in Humor and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

71 Responses to The Lost Art of Whistling

  1. socialklutz says:

    I love whistling, caught it off my dad who whistles anywhere and everywhere 24/7. I used to find it really embarrassing but not as much now!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The fellows that were “whistling Dixie” a number of years ago sure lost out on that deal.

    Like

  3. My dad was the master of the thumb and forefinger in the mouth piercing whistle. None of his kids inherited that handy talent.

    Like

    • susielindau says:

      For some reason, after writing the article, that technique works for me! It’s not very loud so I’ll stick with not putting dirty hands in my mouth, like I just did…yuck…

      Like

  4. Patti Hall says:

    This brings back good memories. I raised my kids in the woods and we had a family whistle that we all knew and used. Their step-dad was the loudest, but I could always get them in with my weaker attempt. My dad is a whistler also and maybe that’s where I caught on. I still love to whistle old songs.
    Thanks for a great post and thanks to Inion N. Mathair for sharing it on FB…I’ve been lazy with the WP reader lately.

    Like

    • susielindau says:

      I’m so glad you stopped by! It’s so nice to meet you!
      I think WordPress has been a little quiet over the summer, but now that the kids are in school, it is perking up again.

      I love the idea of raising kids in the woods. It sounds like a great childhood for them. The whistle would come in very handy!

      Like

  5. Sorry you’re going to find us all over your blog, Susie. We’ve missed so much we’re trying to play catch up!! ha ;) As for the post, what a great idea. Never thought about it, but whistling is as memorable as Christmas & Pumpkin Pie. Unfortunately I’ve never been able to whistle very good. I look as though I’m trying to imitate an aardvark!! lmao ~ My favorite whistler, is a weird choice but one that makes me think of whistling more than any. If you’ve never seen Bill Cosby Live, it’s his comedy show he did when he was younger. In the special, he does a skit on when his wife gave birth to their first baby. During it, Bill says that he was in the room with his wife & was trying to get her to focus by doing Lamas. He does this thing (whistle) but it’s like a speed induced whistle with rhythm. lmao. And there you have it. Inion N. Mathair’s favorite whistler!!! :) xo <3

    Liked by 1 person

    • susielindau says:

      That is so great! I love Bill Cosby. I’ll look it up on YouTube!
      Try making a little tunnel with your tongue. Just the right amount of engagement will help produce the sound! Tweet away!
      It’s so wonderful to see you again! :)

      Like

  6. marydpierce says:

    I would love to whistle. It’s such a happy sound. Sadly, because of jaw surgery and a torn nerve that runs along the right side of my jaw, I can muster only the faintest of sounds. In my next life, though . . .

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  7. You’re right whistling has faded. As kids all our moms had distinctive whistle calls – and we knew exactly who was being called to come home for dinner.

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  8. claywatkins says:

    there is nothing like whistling while you work especially while working in the yard…. the family has a ‘family whistle’ to find each other when we are at home or in public… my youngest can whistle and my oldest can’t she teases him mercilessly about it. I couldn’t wink until I was a junior in high school – and she kept winking at me, so I had to learn.

    Like

    • susielindau says:

      I love it! A family whistle is a superb idea. When I heli-skied with Danny, we had a certain call. I wouldn’t have trusted my lips in the cold!
      Winking is another lost form of communication. Now people assume you’re having a contact attack… :)

      Like

  9. sanalynn says:

    There were, when I was a child (and perhaps still are) whistling competitions. My cousin competed as a child and was featured on the Rosie O’Donnell show. Seriously – google “whistling competitions” – people whistle with *bands* behind them. It’s super cool, and totally the niche where whistling ran for refuge when it started losing steam in the mainstream world.

    Like

  10. I’m a pretty poor whistler, Susie. My mum, on the other hand, still whistles tunes to this day…a matter that caused much embarrassment for us kids growing up! But you make a convincing case and it boils down to this – we need to chuck out our phones! :)

    Like

    • susielindau says:

      I’ve embarrassed my own kids many times!!!! I’m not a great whistler, but can carry a tune and still haven’t downloaded any music on my phone!
      Keep trying and don’t forget to engage your tongue. :)

      Like

  11. I never really thought about it much, but I guess you’re right; whistling is a dying art. I can whistle most of the time but I don’t have a very broad range. My best, most piercing whistle, is when I stick my two pinky fingers in my mouth, but it doesn’t always work and usually when I most want it to. Figures.

    Thanks for the fun post and the lesson.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    Like

  12. Widdershins says:

    Love the ‘Kill Bill’ gif! … I’m rather fond of whistling the melody lines of classical music.

    Like

  13. Love Lauren Bacall and the scene in her asking, “Do you know how to whistle?”. I know how to whistle by using my lips – not the loud whistle, but I can get the job done – ha! Happy Week :)

    Like

  14. I’ve always thought whistling was cool. I can whistle, but only a very short one note. :) I’d love to be able to whistle a tune!

    Like

  15. barbtaub says:

    One of my all-time favorite scenes in a great movie! So sorry to say goodbye to Lauren Bacall this week.

    (Oh, and you forgot the cheaters whistle–across a blade of grass. It was always one of the signs of spring for my sisters and me.)

    Like

  16. Oh, if I had a nickel for every “Honey, you are one hot, smokin’ babe!” whistle….

    Lol!

    Great essay, Susie! Love the anthropology of the whistle!

    Like

  17. Haha! I love this post, Susie! No, I can’t whistle. I’ve been getting some video clips of family members whistling to make a video about whistling. Who knows when I’ll ever get to it! This is such a fun post. Nice going!

    Like

  18. I love to whistle Susie. Hum as well

    Like

  19. Bacall and Bogart…. what can I say.. cannot whistle either.. would lve to be able too though

    Like

  20. gardenlilie says:

    Wonderful post this morning!!
    We need a little lightness in the world today.
    How are ya?
    The paragraph about kids and texts and inside, yup, fits the bill. It’s a new addiction they’ll have to overcome, if and when they get a job. But I’m thinking they will look forward to getting away from that hand held little prison! Haha!
    I’m so glad I met you Suzy, even if only virtually.
    Hell, Harmony.com is like way busy these days. :)

    Like

    • susielindau says:

      I’m all about lightness of being and am better than new!
      I agree about the cell phone and internet addiction. I’ve caught myself in the vortex of the nasty habit going from my cell to my iPad to my computer. Sheesh! That’s when I go outside and whistle!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. jake kale says:

    Courtesy of The Fast Show:

    I never mastered whistling either. Or bike riding come to think of it. I do know how to tie my shows, however!

    Like

  22. I’ve never had any problem with whistling! Never could do a finger whistle, but otherwise… (Nor do I have the prettiest whistle…a “songbird” I am not!)

    I knew that was Tennant just as easily as I knew the song Elle Driver was whistling. I am THAT GOOD! :D

    Now my primary use of whistling is to get my cat’s attention…the higher the notes, the better! I usually use it to get her out of a room, but I’ve also been known to give a short whistle as a locator. Just a couple of notes will get her to meow and I can generally find her after that. :D

    Like

  23. Entertaining post. Thank you. I can’t whistle for beans, but my wife can stop a cab a block away.

    Like

  24. As I read this all I was thinking about was Lauren Bacall’s famous line. I was very happy to get to the end and find it there.
    Sadly, I have never been able to master the art of whistling. I have longed to whistle all my life. Listening to someone who is a terrific whistler is one of my favourite things. Perhaps because it remains elusive to me.

    Like

    • susielindau says:

      I LOVE that scene. There is so much sexual innuendo and tension.
      Keep trying! There are many techniques. The trick to lip whistling is contracting your tongue into a U-shape to blow the air through. If your tongue is flaccid, it won’t work. :),

      Like

  25. David Tennant… thank you for that, it made my Sunday. Oh and I do know how to whistle!

    Like

  26. In the old-fashioned days when women were repressed about most things, it was frowned on for women to whistle. It was rude, they said. And yet, women were supposed to endure being whistled at by men, sometimes rudely. Then there are all the beautiful ways of whistling that have become a dying art. Good post, Susie. I haven’t thought about whistling for a long time and your post emphasizes that point exactly.

    Like

    • susielindau says:

      Now you should whistle through your Sunday! I didn’t remember the double standard with women. Madison was and is a pretty liberal city! I do remember cat calls. Courtney said that three different men (strangers) made derogatory comments about the dress she wore last Friday while walking home, but none of them whistled. I don’t know which is worse??? They both make women feel self-conscious.

      Like

  27. It really is a dying art. I remember trying to teach my son …. hours of laughter trying to get a 3 year old to whistle. But, I must tell you we have a patient that comes into our office whistling in the most effortless manner. No doubt he was a song bird in another life. It’s beautiful!

    Like

    • susielindau says:

      Your patient is just like my dad! I would love to learn how to “warble.” I asked my daughter if she still whistled and was pleasantly surprised. It was like riding a bike!

      Like

  28. I always wished I could do the finger int he mouth, loud-assed whistle, but I never learned. Ironically, a YouTube instruction video may be my best chance at ever getting that skill.

    Like

  29. John says:

    Wow, that was a sexy blow! Never too good at whistling I can do it!! Sometimes it irks the wife though…

    Like

    • susielindau says:

      I love that clip of Bacall and Bogart!
      My whistling prowess is no where near my dad’s. I still find myself whistling to favorite songs even though my daughter nearly broke my habit, so I know what you mean about your wife!

      Like

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