While waiting in line for a lift ticket this past winter, I passed the time by whistling “Born to Lose.” I don’t know why I was whistling that particular Ray Charles song, though I’m sure a psychiatrist could tell me. Be that as it may, a mother and young son were walking by when the little guy asked, “Mom, why is that man whistling?”
“Because he’s happy, Honey,” she answered with a smile.
“Wow,” I thought, “what a good answer.” Of course, I was whistling because I was happy, not because I’m a born loser. So, anyway, I thought I’d do a little rooting around to learn more about the art of whistling.
I was surprised to discover there is a site on the internet that actually teaches one how to whistle in a complete step-by-step guide. It requires downloading an app, however, so that’s where I “drawed out,” as we say in Nevada.
At first blush, there are several kinds of whistling. “Whistling in the wind” is more like wishing, as in, “You can go home and whistle for that raise.” Whereas “whistling past the graveyard,” is more like, “I ain’t scared.” And “not whistling Dixie,” infers someone is not kidding and means business. But I’m more interested in whistling with the lips.
So I listened to the top 15 whistling tunes of all time, according to Rolling Stone, and offered a deep “I’m not worthy” bow to Bobby McFerrin for “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” along with a nod to the Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian.”
I confess I’m a stump-tail whistler, and perhaps just want to know, like Maya Angelou, why the caged bird whistles.
I particularly like this youngster’s take on whistling, “After you see lightning, you start to whistle and listen for the thunder. If you don’t hear the thunder, well then you got hit, so never mind.”
Then there is a book by Claude Steele, “Whistling Vivaldi,” in which Steele focuses on the effects of stereotyping as it relates to performance. (In full disclosure I have not read this book and probably won’t, but I do like the title.)
As to superstitions, some people in Estonia believe that whistling out of doors is normal, but to whistle indoors is to set the house on fire. That’s why I don’t whistle in the kitchen anymore.
As to the history of whistling, well, Adam was the first to whistle (I’m making this up) when he first saw Eve, which was probably followed by, “Wow! You from a rib?!”
My final analysis is, whistling cuts down on your doctor bills, keeps you from sourin’ and adds extra happy years onto your life.
I have set a goal for myself to practice my whistling and win the International Whistler’s Competition in North Carolina this summer. And what tune do you suppose I’m going to whistle? You guessed it, “Born to Lose,” of course.
McAvoy Layne is a 30-year impressionist of Mark Twain who can be reached at GhostofTwain.com.