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What’s in a whistle? Plenty!

Posted on August 13, 2015 | Comments

“Whistle While You Work” is a song written in 1937 for the animated Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Even though it’s a cute song with a sweet message, whistling has never seemed that popular to me.  That’s why it struck me as funny when I first caught myself whistling doing routine tasks like cooking, cleaning or laundry. Taking a closer look, I realized it was how I could “sing” songs of positive affirmations without disturbing anyone.  Guess Oscar Hammerstein was onto something when he wrote the words to “I Whistle a Happy Tune” for The King and I.

Beyond my own experience, it turns out whistling has a diverse and varied past initially considered as a male dominated activity back in the day.  Women were judged to be unfeminine if they attempted to whistle since a “wolf whistle” was how a young man showed his appreciation of a pretty girl walking by.  Farmers are known for using different whistles to direct their dogs and whistling is a commonly used to signal others. On the superstitious side, actors on stage have believed that whistling backstage could ruin a performance and sailors have been known to think that whistling attracts the wind.  Some cultures have worried that whistling inside will bring bad luck while others fear whistling will make their money disappear.

Now here’s a question for you, true or false:  Is whistling illegal?  Strangely enough, it is illegal to whistle underwater in Vermont, West Virginia, and Portland, Oregon. One would think common sense would prevent people from doing something so risky.  Otherwise best to make sure it’s legal before attempting.  On another lawful note, according to CNN, Sullivan’s Island, the sleepy beach community of 2,000 residents off of Charleston, South Carolina has banned whistling along with public singing.  Apparently there is concern when tourists more than double the population during summer weekends. If you are caught making any kind of noise especially between 11 pm and 7 am, you could face a whopping $500 fine. Guess they take their need for quiet seriously.

Psychologically speaking, whistling is a complex yet very natural human reaction.  It denotes different moods, helps people release tension, or feel less afraid.  Have to admit, there’s definitely a lot more behind whistling than I realized.  Still, in many settings, others can be annoyed by someone who is “whistling while they work.”  Nevertheless, the next time you hear a person whistling, you may want to consider what motivation has caused the whistler to burst into tune, and possibly join in?

 

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