Remember the Whistle?

Whistling: It takes me way back. editor Linza de Jager. Photo:

Whatever happened to people whistling? One seldom hears anyone do so nowadays. I realised this when a whistle rang out over Melkbosstrand beach yesterday. It was a man summoning his dog but he might as well have been talking to me.

It took me way back. My Scottish grandfather used to whistle even in company. What did he whistle? I can’t remember. Perhaps it was Never on a Sunday or some other laid-back hit from those days; something that complemented a six o’ clock tot of whiskey and the SABC news; something a retired bank manager would whistle. My father’s whistles were different. My father was a farmer and his whistles reflected that. They were high and peremptory. They carried over distance and meant “Come here!”

Pout and let go. Graphic:

Pout and let go. Graphic:

I also whistled in those days. I could whistle in the traditional way – with my mouth in a trout pout and expelling air through my two front teeth. I could also whistle through my bottom teeth which created another sound, quite melodic, I thought. This was assisted by the fact that I had ever so handy spaces between my teeth.

Many years later I can barely manage the traditional trout pout-whistle and the melodic variation is beyond me. This is bad, but even worse is the following. It is the way in which whistling has become stigmatised. Witness this. Last night I practiced whistling in our lounge and it perturbed “Die Oom.”

“Are you whistling?” he asked rudely. I admitted it. “Well, please don’t. I just heard somebody whistle outside and it’s confusing.” There you have it. The gentle art of whistling has become confused with the signals criminals exchange at night, prior to breaking into one’s house.



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