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June 25, 2024 50 mins

Whistling is pretty cool when you think about it because it can mean many things, from simple happy tunes to legit communication. Learn all about this ubiquitous skill today. 

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Stuff you should know, a production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:11):
Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh, and there's
Chuck and Jerry's here too. And it's become clear to
me that I used the slide whistle on the wrong episode.
This is stuff you should know. Oh, would they have
gotten annoying to you?

Speaker 1 (00:26):
I think the slide whistle work perfect. And this isn't
about slide whistles.

Speaker 2 (00:29):
No, it's about whistle whistles, which means your mouth with
your lips pursed. That's right, So let's just go out
of the gate. For the three people who don't know
what whistling is, Whistling is the act of making a
sound by forcing air through your mouth through a narrow passage,
typically with your lips pursed. And that is actually a

specific kind of whistling, as we'll see, called pucker whistling.
There's other kinds, but that is by far the most
common form of whistling. If you can move your tongue
a little bit, you can start to get pretty good
at whistling. One other thing to start set everything up.
There is no genetic basis for not being able to whistle.
It's just a lack of practice.

Speaker 1 (01:12):
Do you whistle right out of the gate, let's hit
me with that info. You bet, I don't mean. Can
you whistle? Yes?

Speaker 2 (01:21):
I find myself more going like that, Like I'm not
trying to do a song. I don't even know I'm
doing it. I like realize I'm doing it as I'm
doing it. It's just something to occupy the space around me.
I guess. Okay, what about you, Chuck? Do you whistle? Chuck?

Are you a whistler?

Speaker 1 (01:43):
Yeah? I whistle sometimes. I wonder if I annoy people
by whistling.

Speaker 2 (01:48):
Oh, you've never annoyed me by whistling. I can tell
you that.

Speaker 1 (01:52):
But back when, you know, in the early days of
HowStuffWorks dot com, when we worked in a big office
with you know, fifty people, I used to wonder about
stuff like that, like, well, yeah, you know, am I
whistling around the office? Is that annoying to people? Kind
of like remember the guy who walked around in his
sock feet? Oh my god?

Speaker 2 (02:10):
Why did that bother me so much?

Speaker 1 (02:12):
Because he walked around in office with sock feet, including
the bathroom.

Speaker 2 (02:17):
Yes, including the bathroom. That's why urinoal in socks it was.
I mean, I know that that's just objectively wrong. But
I don't the rest of it. I never understood why
it bothered me so much.

Speaker 1 (02:28):
But you just you don't do that. You don't do that,
that's why.

Speaker 2 (02:31):
But you're also not supposed to whistle around the office
to FYI.

Speaker 1 (02:35):
Yeah, and I think I literally kind of was like,
I probably shouldn't do that around here, because that was
the first office job I ever had.

Speaker 2 (02:42):
I mean, like, I know for a fact I've noticed
you whistling before, but I can tell you it's never
bothered me. Ever.

Speaker 1 (02:49):
I appreciate it. I'm a pretty good whistler, so I
like to whistle songs and things.

Speaker 2 (02:52):
You are a very good whistler.

Speaker 1 (02:54):
I appreciate that. So well, you know, maybe I'll try
a little bit out here and there.

Speaker 2 (02:58):
Jerry whistles too. You just can't hear it.

Speaker 1 (03:01):
Oh she's whistling right now.

Speaker 2 (03:03):
Way to go, Jerry, you're champ.

Speaker 1 (03:05):
So you mentioned the pucker whistle. That's the most common,
you know, whistle that most people walk around doing.

Speaker 2 (03:12):
That's this.

Speaker 1 (03:14):
That that's right.

Speaker 2 (03:15):
I'm going to try to demonstrate them all, so you
go through them all, demonstrate them.

Speaker 1 (03:19):
Okay, that sounds great. Okay, my good friend Eddie whom
you've met before. He does what's called the palettal whistling,
which is sh that's right, except it makes a whistle
sound right, and that is when you put the tongue
on the roof of your mouth. I can't do it.
Eddie does it really well, so it's always kind of fun.

And I'm a big it's just a nostalgia last for
me when whenever Eddie breaks out the pal little whistle?

Speaker 2 (03:47):
Can he spit like that too? You know how you
can do like a little little thing of spit like
really fast from your mouth by by touching your palette
with your tongue.

Speaker 1 (03:57):
Oh oh, gleaking?

Speaker 2 (03:59):
Yes, can you do that?

Speaker 1 (04:02):
I can gleek, but I don't know.

Speaker 2 (04:03):
If Eddie can, well, then I'll bet you could pallette
whistle and I can't. All right, what's the next?

Speaker 1 (04:09):
The old finger whistle? It's like uh yeah, except again caveat,
except it makes a whistles sound.

Speaker 2 (04:17):

Speaker 1 (04:18):
I've never been able to do this. There are different methods,
number of fingers where you place them, and stuff like that.
The old taxi whistle, that's a that's a finger whistle.
Usually I've always been jealous of people who could really
bust out a loud finger whistle. I could never do it.
Are you jealous the finger whistlers? I mean that's very

low on the scale, but sure a little bit.

Speaker 2 (04:41):
Ok, all right, I mean they're putting their fingers in
their mouths, yeah, and walking around New York City.

Speaker 1 (04:48):
Yep. That's really loud, though.

Speaker 2 (04:51):
But if you could just Pallett whistle, you can usually
whistle as loud as a finger whistle.

Speaker 1 (04:56):
In my oh, aren't very loud.

Speaker 2 (05:00):
It's like this right?

Speaker 1 (05:03):
Oh no, no, I think you're thinking of two different things.
Are you thinking of a palette whistle as like a
taxi call without fingers?

Speaker 2 (05:09):
Uh? Yeah, it's the kind of where like your your
lips kind of press back in your in your face
a little bit and your teeth cairt explosed and your
tongue goes up to the roof of your mouth.

Speaker 1 (05:20):
I think we have a different version of palette whistle.
Then maybe I can get Eddie Eddie to record his
Pallett whistle.

Speaker 2 (05:27):
So I know what you're talking about. Then I've seen
video of that. Yes, it's coming. It's almost like it
comes from the back of the throat.

Speaker 1 (05:35):
Yeah, I mean I wish I could do it. When
I try to do what he does, it's just nothing
comes out.

Speaker 2 (05:40):
At all palattle whistling except to mix this sound.

Speaker 1 (05:43):
And then there's throat whistling, which is a very strange
looking whistle because your mouth is open. You're you're not
you don't have like a puckered purse lip.

Speaker 2 (05:54):
Oh, that's what I'm thinking of. I don't know what
palattal whistling is.

Speaker 1 (05:58):
If it's not, you know what, I'll at the very
least I'll get Eddie to send me an audio thing
that I'll text you.

Speaker 2 (06:05):
Okay, can you text him now? Sure, I'll talk you.
Just text for a minute.

Speaker 1 (06:12):
For the throat whistling. I would want to recommend did
you watch those videos I sent you? By any chance
I didn't, chuck, I'm sorry. Oh man, that's all right.
You have to though, you owe it to yourself, okay,
because they're just go to YouTube and type in Ralph Whistler, guys,
I guess g I E. S. E. On Kelly and Company,
nineteen eighty four, and just witness the beauty of this

guy Ralph doing his throat whistling to Georgia on my mind,
which got about a half a million, five hundred and
fifty thousand views. Then right afterward, in fact, you'll be
proddedge to watch the next video, which is best singer
ever Whistler redub which is somebody who redubbed him with

his strange facial movements. As actual we won't even call
it singing, but other mouth noises. That has gotten two
and a half million views. Nice and I watched it
seven times a day and laughed just as hard every
single time. It's man, got funny, It's amazing.

Speaker 2 (07:12):
Okay, I'll definitely watch it, so Chuck. We can't actually
say when whistling started. Some people say that it actually
was a proto language, which I find is absolutely fascinating totally.
We do know that the that well back into prehistory
and the Neolithic Age, people were using maybe even Neanderthals too.

We're using bone whistles, the grimmest kind of whistle, which
would indicate that we were already familiar with whistles. We
probably had figured out how to whistle by then. There's
a bioacoustician named Julian Meyer who says the muscles it
takes the amount of brain power it takes to whistle
is so much less than it is to speak and

to use words and creative vocabulary like that. That it
just makes sense that we would have evolved to whistle first,
at the very least, to get somebody's attention, right, and
then once you have somebody's attention, you want to express
an idea that just inherently follows. It's almost inevitable that
we whistled before we learn to speak.

Speaker 1 (08:20):
Yeah, there have been legitimate whistling languages discovered on every
continent on planet Earth. And then once we move on
to recorded history, we know for sure that Greeks and
Romans and ancient Greece and Rome whistled because they whistle
like to jeer from the audience, like people still do
in Europe, at least Europe. I'm sure they do that

in other countries, but we boo here in the United States,
But in the UK and Europe they whistle when they
want to express displeasure.

Speaker 2 (08:51):
Yeah. There was also so Herodotus in his histories described
a community in Ethiopia that lived in caves and spoke
like and you know the term troglodites. These were the
original troglodites. Yeah, and it's been taken her Auditus has
to be taken with a grain of salt because he
himself was relying on probably a lot of unreliable sources.

He sounds like somebody who would have really bought the
stuff that he read on Facebook and put a lot
of stuff onto Facebook if you were alive today. But
that doesn't mean that there was not like some kernel
of truth. And this the Troglodites who spoke like bats
has been taken to mean that they had a whistle
based language.

Speaker 1 (09:34):
Yeah, they were all over the place. People just took
took whistling and his buddies, Hey, look at this mastad
On over here. Let's take this thing down. He says
that all in a whistle.

Speaker 2 (09:46):
He's like And also, have you heard the new Mastodon album?

Speaker 1 (09:50):
By the way, shout out to Mastodon. I was just
the for the second year running the Celebrity Judge quote
unquote Celebrity Judge and the Chicken Wing contest for the
Kirk with Spring Fling, and one of the other judges
was Braun, the drummer of Mastadon Awesome, and he was
a super cool dude.

Speaker 2 (10:08):
Oh I'm sure, how could you not be if you're
in Mastadon.

Speaker 1 (10:12):
Yeah, we'd said there and ate chicken wings together and
very seriously reviewed them and rated them.

Speaker 2 (10:17):
So I'm sure you'd take that seriously. I would too.
I would be very disappointed if you just took that
as like a lark.

Speaker 1 (10:24):
Yeah, sixteen chicken wings, wow, lucky. Yeah. Well I didn't
eat them all. I ate a house to like four
of them, and then most of the rest were just
a bite or two.

Speaker 2 (10:33):
Okay. Do you like smoked wings like you know the
Fox Brothers ilk?

Speaker 1 (10:38):
Yeah, smoke. I have a love hate with smoke on
any food it can it's okay, But the same with mezcal.
I like it and just little bits and blasts.

Speaker 2 (10:47):
M uh yeah, I'm with you. Uh. With the smoked
wings though, that's that's kind of what I'm on right now.
I can eat a lot.

Speaker 1 (10:55):
Of those those. I mean they the Fox Brothers wings
are great.

Speaker 2 (11:00):
Well, nothing compliments and is complimented by Ranch more than
a smoked wing. To me, It's even better than like
a regular straight ahead buffalo wing. As far as the
Ranch combo works, I.

Speaker 1 (11:12):
Don't need buffalo anymore at all. I'm a dry lemon
pepper guy. Oh all right, These.

Speaker 2 (11:19):
Days, I always associate that with sports betting and watching
like sports on Sunday for some.

Speaker 1 (11:25):
Reason, well, I do a bit of both.

Speaker 2 (11:28):
Speaking of dude, have you seen Sorry to all the
people who are new to every podcast, have you seen
the roast of Tom Brady?

Speaker 1 (11:35):
Oh? I saw parts of it, but there's no way
I could sit through that in earnest, it's so bad.

Speaker 2 (11:41):
Like the stand up comedians and some of the podcasters
did pretty well, Nicky Glazer won the night easily, handily,
but when you finally get to Tom Brady's part, it
like like it's unwatchable. You just can't you can't look.
It's so it's so bad. He's like so going with
the joke of how he's the greatest that it becomes

kind of painfully clear that he's actually being dead serious
at that point. It's not joking at all. It's really tough.
I would actually recommend just watching like the first minute
and a half of it and see if you can
make it that far.

Speaker 1 (12:16):
I don't know if I could, but shout out on
the key Glazer one time stuff you should.

Speaker 2 (12:20):
Know listener at least yeah, that one time.

Speaker 1 (12:23):
I mean, I don't know if she still is. In
other words, I know what you mean you're just joking.
All right, Can we get back to whistling. Yes, that's
all my fault. We can move past the history. People
get what's going on here.

Speaker 2 (12:36):
Well, we need to talk about when whistling was like
a big deal though in history.

Speaker 1 (12:41):
Yeah, that's what I was getting to. Okay, we're talking Initially,
you know that ancient history stuff was like hey, look
over here, Hey what should we do? Hey, we're communicating.
But if you're talking about whistle why you work? Musical
whistling and other words, it's kind of tougher to trace
that history because there's nothing, you know, there's no fossil

that would indicate anything. But Linda Hamilton, who is a
historian and loves whistling, has definitely referenced whistlers in the
sixteen hundreds. My bet is that it goes back even
further because if people learn to whistle, I believe people
are inherently musical, then people are, in my mind, whistling

for enjoyment and pleasure.

Speaker 2 (13:30):
Pleasure. Yeah. Well, even in the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer says
the young squire spends his days singing and whistling. So
I mean, yeah, that's yes, I agree, I think the
first time somebody realized they could whistle, it immediately kicked
off the human I guess pastime of whistling for pleasure. Yeah, absolutely,

so yeah, they were like, hey over here, Hey, I
like that a lot. I'm just going to keep saying
hey over here a bunch of times. That was the
first time it happened.

Speaker 1 (13:59):
The first song written by a whistle was called hey
over here.

Speaker 2 (14:03):
So there were actual songs. There were professional whistlers late
nineteenth century vaudeville that makes sense, like Vaudeville of George.
They had so many acts doing so many different things.
Of course there were whistlers, but it caught on, and
in the first pretty much half of the twentieth century,
there were a lot of whistling acts, whistling performers. They

have names like Ronnie Ronalde, Muzzy Marcellino, just perfect names
like that, and they were big enough that I think
in nineteen forty nine Ronnie Ronalde sold out Radio City
Music Hall for ten weeks and he was a whistler.

Speaker 1 (14:40):
Every night for ten weeks.

Speaker 2 (14:41):
Yes, yeah, not just like once and then ten weeks later,
I mean like every night for ten weeks.

Speaker 1 (14:46):
Yes, that's a six thousand cap venue.

Speaker 2 (14:50):
He was a whistler.

Speaker 1 (14:52):
Oh man, I mean that just so was how big
it was. It was usually people. I mean, if you
had a whistling act, you were doing one or you
were doing usually both of two things, which is whistling
songs and things and then mimicking song birds.

Speaker 2 (15:06):
Yeah, and that's still a thing. I watched Pucker Up,
the documentary on whistling. Did you see it?

Speaker 1 (15:12):
I did.

Speaker 2 (15:13):
It's great almost in the way that it starts out too.
I was like, this is indistinguishable from an episode of documentary. Now,
like the first half hour, it really was not tell it.

Speaker 1 (15:25):
Apart, Yeah, except there was no Fred Armiston her Yeah.

Speaker 2 (15:29):
But I was just waiting for him to pop up.
It was like that go on. But it's a really
really sweet, charming documentary and all the people involved are
pretty great. But one of the first people, I think,
the first whistler they introduce you to a guy named
Joe Siddano. He as doing bird impressions out in the
woods and the birds are responding to him. It's really

neat to see. You're like, wow, this guy's communing with
the birds right now out in the world.

Speaker 1 (15:54):
Yeah, he's talking better watch what you say though, buddy, Yeah,
for sure. So it was going on pretty well, whistling
very very big in vaudeville, like you said, in a
popular act just period, so much so that there was
an academy. In nineteen oh nine, the Agnes Woodward, California
School of Artistic Whistling opened up, and she had some
pretty high profile clients, including John Wayne. I guess wanted

to learn how to whistle really well, Pat Boon, Bing Crosby.

Speaker 2 (16:22):
If you're in a Western, you better know how to whistle.
That's my guess why John Wayne needed to learn at.

Speaker 1 (16:27):
Least whistle for your horse at the very least.

Speaker 2 (16:29):
Sure. Yeah, your horse loves to hear you whistle.

Speaker 1 (16:32):
That's a funny joke though in a Western, it's like
the cowboy who can't whistle probably feels pretty bad about himself.

Speaker 2 (16:38):
Probably that reminds me of the singing horse in Top Secret.

Speaker 1 (16:42):
Oh yeah, that was just on an episode of Scott
hasn't seen, so that's fresh in my mind.

Speaker 2 (16:49):
Oh okay, good, So you remember the singing Horse.

Speaker 1 (16:52):
I remember that, and that it just made me remember
how funny that movie is. It is really is.

Speaker 2 (16:58):
So I think you were a kind of getting to
this point where all of a sudden, almost overnight, every
whistling act just went away. The world said, we're done
with whistling. Stop whistling, And very interestingly, whistling is like
not just a musical act, but just kind of as
a pastime, something that people just generally did. Went away

at the same time too, And I saw that it
was chalked up by some people to the advent of
the transistor radio, and then eventually the walkman and the
iPod I think it was somebody on Pucker Up kind
of made this case. And it really makes sense because
one of the reasons people would whistle before is because
you're just keeping yourself occupied, you're keeping yourself entertained, you're

creating music for yourself to enjoy. And that need for
that went away when we were able to carry around
things that could do that for us, starting with the
transistor radio.

Speaker 1 (17:54):
Yeah, for sure. It also had a bad reputation, even
in certain instances in the eighteen hundreds in the UK
there were stores that banned whistling because it was used
as a sort of language basically between pickpockets and thieves
to warn each other. It is still sort of sort

of a trophy shorthand for someone that's up to no good,
usually somebody trying to play it off as if they
are carefree. Oh yeah, like if you were, Yeah, if
you were doing a sketch, a comedy sketch about a shoplifter.
Every time the shop owner looks over at the shoplifter,
they would probably like look up at the sky, and

that would kill absolutely. And it's just become sort of
a trope. Is a shorthand again, just another sort of
weird use for whistling.

Speaker 2 (18:47):
So it's just like roller skating. You remember how like
roller skating was huge in the late seventies and all
of a sudden, just overnight, it went away, But like
Black culture was like, nope, we're still roller skating, and
roller skating continue to be a thing. That kind of
happened with whistling. The world was like, we're done with whistling,
but a subset of people were like, no, we're going

to keep whistling and kept the dream alive of whistling
over the years. And I say, we take a break
and we come back and talk about a few contemporary whistlers.
Let's do it, okay, Chuck, So we're talking about people

who whistle today sometimes for a living. There was an
artist in the nineties named Marge Carlson who whistle a
lot of saccharine Christian songs and was known as America's
Sweetheart of bird songs. She was quite a good whistler,
but she had albums like she released albums where rather
than singing, it was all instrumental, and one of the

instruments was her whistling.

Speaker 1 (20:11):
Yeah, and that's still a thing. I'm sure you looked
at these videos, Josh, but there is big things to Anna,
by the way, who put this together for us, very cool,
robust article. But she found Molly Lewis, who is a
contemporary professional whistler, just a wonderful whistler, releasing that She

has an EP called The Forgotten Edge. She performs live
in concert. There's a very fun YouTube with Molly on
one of those Sunday morning shows.

Speaker 2 (20:43):
I can't remember, yes, Sunday Morning. It was good little segment, Yeah.

Speaker 1 (20:47):
Very good little segment, like you said, and she just
Molly just seems terrific, very enthusiastic about whistling.

Speaker 2 (20:54):
Yes, she's a whistler, but at the same time she's
like bewildered that she's actually making a career of whistling,
like she's able to do that.

Speaker 1 (21:02):
Yeah, she's kind of laughing about it, and not like
in a put down way. You just kind of like,
I'm good at this weird thing and it's just kind
of crazy.

Speaker 2 (21:08):

Speaker 1 (21:09):

Speaker 2 (21:09):
She's got some contemporaries too, a lot of I think
actually Molly competed too, a lot of the people who
you would have heard of as whistlers at least now
if you really dig into whistling, you'll end up hearing
about him like Chris Olman, Yurt or sorry hert Chatrow,
who's just an amazing person. Apparently they competed in like

the International Whistling Finals, And as you kind of start
to dig into the world of whistling, some names kind
of bubble up to the top. And that's because they're
essentially competitive whistlers. There's whistling competitions that are held over
the years, and some people who are just the best
of the best at whistling will compete. So in addition
to Molly Lewis, you'll run across the guy named Chris Olman,

who's a champion whistler, a guy named hert Chatrow, who's
another champion whistler, and they're just amazing and if you
if you listen to them, it's like, especially if you
just just go watch Pucker Up the documentary. I think
it's even on YouTube for free. Yeah, like you'll start
to realize that people have their own style, their own techniques.

It's not just like there's one way to whistle. People
have figured out a bunch of different ways to whistle
in different combinations of those ways to whistle, and they're
keeping it alive.

Speaker 1 (22:22):
Like I said, that's right. I mean, Sammy Hagar may
say there's only one way to rock, but he will
also say there's a lot of ways to whistle.

Speaker 2 (22:31):
That's right. And he said for those about to rock,
we salute you, and.

Speaker 1 (22:36):
We salute Sammy because he just got a star on
the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Speaker 2 (22:39):
Oh really, congrats.

Speaker 1 (22:41):
Yeah, way to go, Sammy. So if you are a
great whistler and you, you know, maybe compete in these
competitions and you're like, well, not popular enough to get
my album out there, like Molly Lewis, you probably could
find a home. It sirked us Ola because they have
had quite a few whistlers over the years perform with
them as circus is a bit of a modern day vaudeville,

and they have all kinds of fun things like that. Yeah,
we go every year here in Atlanta. It's a nice
fun tradition for the fam. You can also whistle on
songs and soundtracks. Molly Lewis whistled on that Barbie soundtrack.
That's so great. Of course, who can forget the good,
the bad, and the ugly Sergio Leoni's famous famous spaghetti

Western in which Alessandro Alessandroni did that very sort of
iconic whistle for that movie.

Speaker 2 (23:32):
Oh, it's iconic for sure. I mean it signifies anytime
somebody is you're suddenly like potentially in danger because an
extraordinarily capable killer has showed up?

Speaker 1 (23:46):
Is that?

Speaker 2 (23:46):
I don't know if I'd described that.

Speaker 1 (23:48):
Correctly, No, like if the s was about to go down?

Speaker 2 (23:52):
Yeah, I guess so.

Speaker 1 (23:55):
And as a refresher, of course, Clinty Sort was a good,
Lee Van Kleep was a bad and Eli Wallach was
the ugly anyway, I know, do you want to bust
that one out for us.

Speaker 2 (24:09):
Like that?

Speaker 1 (24:10):
Yeah? That was great.

Speaker 2 (24:11):
I got another one too. There's actually a name you
know that whistling part where eld Driver is going to
kill the bride at the very beginning of Kill Bill
Volume one. Yeah, that song is called Twisted Nerve and
it's like the creepiest song you've ever heard in your life.
And it's from a nineteen sixty eight British thriller called

Twisted Nerve. You know the song I'm talking about.

Speaker 1 (24:36):
I mean, i'd probably recognize that it's been wat since
I've seen that though.

Speaker 2 (24:39):
It's just creepsville. And for some reason, I think it's
because it's whistled in part is why it's creepy. It's
a creepy song.

Speaker 1 (24:47):
All right, I'll have to check that out. You want
to take a stab at it her?

Speaker 2 (24:49):
Now? Sure you know the song?

Speaker 1 (25:04):
No, but I feel like applauding.

Speaker 2 (25:06):
I think we should overdub the actual song where I
start just impress everybody.

Speaker 1 (25:12):
That'd be pretty great. Of course, we have to name
the fact that sometimes people will whistle as a character.
Let's say, if you're Woodstock in Peanuts, Jason Saranus did
the Woodstock whistles. And there's got any Percy Edwards who
is an animal impressionist and he voices whistles for a

lot of animated characters.

Speaker 2 (25:35):
He also was the voice er I guess the character
of Fiz Gig in the Dark Crystal. Essentially that one
of the pets.

Speaker 1 (25:44):
You just whistled, And what did I just whistle? What
did I do? I indicated something, didn't I?

Speaker 2 (25:50):
You expressed emotion, in this case admiration or being impressed.

Speaker 1 (25:54):
That's right, And what we're talking about is why people whistle.
And we've kind of poked around here and there. You
know first about the fact that there were languages and
stuff like that. If you lived in a mountainous region,
A very good way to communicate over a longer distance
like that and maybe give a direction is to have
some whistles that you agree on. Rather than try and

get someone to understand you saying you know, there is
wood over here, you might have a whistle that can
indicate that a little more clearly. Over a great echoe.

Speaker 2 (26:26):
Distance, there's also yes. And that's the whole point. Echoe
distances are basically the basis of what are known as
whistled languages, and they're a whistled version of your local language.
So like if you were saying there's wood over there,
you'd be like, right, and it actually works, like your

whistle can travel way farther. I saw something like five
hundred and fifty meters on like a nice spring day,
compared to forty meters for just speech one hundred and
twenty meters for shouting. One hundred and fifty meters is
what your whistle will carry. And there's like neurologists and
linguists are just fascinated by this, Like how could you

kind of imitate a sentence in whistle and the receiver
here's the sentence essentially in the same way as if
you spoke it. Like it goes to show like there's
a lot that you can strip out of speech and
still get the point across. That's what whistle languages to you.

Speaker 1 (27:26):
Yeah, I mean, if you think about it, there's only
a handful of words that you might want to communicate.
You don't have to say, hey, we have firewood over here.
You just have to be able to say fire here
or or vegetable here, you know, And you can just
combine very rudimentary expressions to one another informative expressions. What

would you call that? Information? Sure, an informative expression.

Speaker 2 (27:52):
I like that, actually, I like that a lot more
than dumb old information. Also, the other person says, what
kind of a right, the initial person says tomatoes, and
the second person goes tomatoes a fruit, and the initial
person says, is it? And it just keeps going on
like this. But imagine people doing that whistling.

Speaker 1 (28:11):
Yeah, that'd be pretty great. We have the legendary wolf whistle,
which of course is the that originated they believe as
a call like shepherds was used. Would use that to
communicate that there are wolves about, and then that evolved
to something that you know, a street manhole repair cover

person in New York City might do to any woman
that walks by.

Speaker 2 (28:36):
Still supposedly, in twenty eighteen, France banned wolf whistling with
a seven hundred and fifty euro fine on the spot.
You would be like, you need to pay this on
the spot, And that fascinating because it's a it's a
form of sexual harassment.

Speaker 1 (28:50):
Yeah, look at France.

Speaker 2 (28:52):
And I saw that the or furthest back that a
wolf whistle in that context can be traced to is
that nineteen forty three Tech Savery cartoon Red Hot Riding Hood,
where the cartoon wolf is like watching Riding Hood like
perform on stage and just completely loses his mind.

Speaker 1 (29:10):
Any wolf whistles, that's right, you know earlier the old uh?
I mean that can that one in itself can mean
several different things. You could be impressed by something and
go like that, or you could use it sort of
derisively if someone did something really embarrassing or bad at
a party.

Speaker 2 (29:29):
True, you just made my stomach turn? Wow? Well yeah,
effect of a whistle in certain contexts.

Speaker 1 (29:35):
And usually like an eye roll and something along with
it will help indicate that expression. But it's just really
fascinating how many different sort of you can express disappointment
or excitement, Like, how many different things you can do
from just a simple whistle.

Speaker 2 (29:48):
Wonder where your car is?

Speaker 1 (29:50):
Yeah, how would you do that? Wait? I thought that
was vegetable here.

Speaker 2 (29:59):
And one other thing we have to talk about. We
mentioned communicating with animals, and we talked about this in
I think They're communicating with animals episode appropriately enough. The
greater honeyguide, which is a type of bird found in
Tanzania Mozambique that honey foragers. Human honey foragers have learned
to communicate to whistle to the greater honey guide to

get them to come out of the trees and lead
them to a beehive.

Speaker 1 (30:24):

Speaker 2 (30:25):
I love that. Communicating with animals, I think is just fantastic.

Speaker 1 (30:29):
It's the best. Maybe we'll take a break in a sec,
but we'll go over some quick superstitions involving whistling, and
you know, instead of going through all these I think
they can all almost be lumped into. Whistling in a
certain place or at a certain time can bring bad luck.

It seems like Polynesia, Iceland, Hawaii, Mexico, Hong Kong, Scandinavia.
There's so many countries where if you whish, like I said,
in the wrong place or at the wrong time, it
can be a bad omen. It can mean there's ghosts about,
or there's spirits about, just sort of depending on when
and how it's done.

Speaker 2 (31:11):
Yeah, usually it's whistling in the dark or after dark.
Is a terrible idea in a lot of these cultures
around the world, and that the bad luck that you're
going to bring yourself is summoning spirits, demons, that kind
of thing who will snatch your soul essentially. But I
find it fascinating that whistling in the dark or whistling
after nightfall is like almost a universal superstition.

Speaker 1 (31:35):
Well, I've never heard of that.

Speaker 2 (31:37):
I hadn't either, but I mean all of the different,
like widespread cultures that share that belief, it suggests that
it's a very very very old superstition.

Speaker 1 (31:49):
Yeah, for sure.

Speaker 2 (31:51):
So you want to take that break.

Speaker 1 (31:53):
Yeah, we'll take the break and we'll talk more about
whistling and basically how you do it right after this. Okay,

all right, we're back with promise on teaching you to whistle.
It is very cute when you have a kid and
they try to learn to whistle and think and claim
that they are whistling when they are not. At least
that was my case early on, when Ruby was trying
to learn how to whistle, she'd be like, Daddy, I
can whistle. Oh, let's hear it. And what can you

say besides hey, that sounds great, keep at it.

Speaker 2 (32:53):
You were like, and gave Brad and iyrol exactly and
she was like, what is that?

Speaker 1 (32:59):
That is not even a whistle. But it does take
some time to learn how to whistle. Some people never learn,
but you can teach yourself. What you're doing basically is
creating your mouth becomes an instrument and becomes a chamber.
Basically where you are passing air from one small opening

from your lungs where the air comes from out of
your puckered lips. And you do that with the standard
pucker whistle by placing your tongue. And you might even
realize at first, I was like, wait a minute, the
tongu's not on the roof of your mouth. But the
tongue is absolutely at the roof of your mouth. The
very back of your tongue is at the very back
of the roof of your mouth, not the front of

your tongue. The front of your tongue is pressed against
the bottom row of teeth. And that's what you do.
You just start blowing. You form that O shape with
your mouth and just practice, practice.

Speaker 2 (33:54):
Practice, Yeah, it's really neat. It's called the Helmholtz chamber
that you're forming, which is a type of resonance chamber.
And because you're forcing air through a large from smaller
holes into a larger hole back into a smaller hole
and your tongue's there by moving your tongue, you can
adjust like all sorts of weird currents that you're creating
in the air pressure and that creates the vibrations that

make the sound, which is why when you move your
tongue around, you change notes and pitch and timber and
all sorts of crazy stuff. And that's whistling. That's pucker whistling.
That's what you're doing. I love it. I love that
there's like an explanation that makes total sense. It's deeply
satisfying to me. It would suck if we're like, we

still don't know how we whistle. I think I would
lose my mind if that were the case.

Speaker 1 (34:43):
Yeah, And you know, when we're saying things like moving
your tongue around and the tongue is pressed against the
top of your mouth, like if you don't know how
to whistle, and that's frustrating you and you're just moving
your tongue all over the place, it's they're very very
subtle movements. Like I said, I didn't even realize my
tongue was a against the back of the roof of
my mouth. I didn't either until I started whistling and

I was like, oh, wait a minute, I guess it is.
And then the back of my tongue, very subtly moving
back and forth against the back of the roof of
my mouth is what creates the different tones and pitches
and warbles and what have you. So it's not it's
just all just very, very slight movements. You're going to
frustrate yourself if you don't know how to whistle and

you're trying just all these crazy things with your tongue
in your mouth.

Speaker 2 (35:28):
Yeah. Chris Olman, that champion professional whistler, he spoke with
Vox and said, I'll give you four steps to whistling. First,
form and O with the shape of your mouth. Second,
press the tip of your tongue to your teeth, usually
the bottom row of the inside of the bottom row
of your teeth. And then he said, blow gently. This
is important. You want your air to be focused and constant,

not necessarily hard. The hearder you blow, it's actually it
makes it more difficult to whistle. You just wanted to
kind of blow concertedly but not hard. And then lastly,
you just keep practicing. And the way that he put
it is you practice each one of those steps in secession.
So you just keep forming an over and over until

you've got the mouth position going.

Speaker 1 (36:13):
Yeah. I feel good because my steps were exactly like
the pros.

Speaker 2 (36:18):
Yeah, I guess you just intuitively knew how to whistle.
You just taught yourself like that? Is that what you're saying?

Speaker 1 (36:24):
No, no, no, I'm saying the way I described it
how to do it was. Oh, of course he's.

Speaker 2 (36:28):
A pro, So you're a pro podcaster.

Speaker 1 (36:33):
So should we talk a little bit about famous whistling stuff?

Speaker 2 (36:36):
I think so. I mean, at the very least, we
have to talk about to Have and Have Not?

Speaker 1 (36:41):
Uh yeah, the I mean take it away.

Speaker 2 (36:44):
Then, okay. So there's an adaptation of a Hemingway novel
To Have and Have Not, with Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart,
and there's a very famous line where Bacaull says, you
know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put
your lips together and blow. And that's probably the most
famous movie line about whistling ever. Uttered everybody knows that one.

Then you might not know a movie it's from or
who said it, but you've heard that line. Don't even
kid yourself.

Speaker 1 (37:15):
The very famous whistle while you work from Stow White
and the Seven Doors. Of course, the Andy Griffith Show.
I remember very distinctly when my brother, when I first
visited him in Los Angeles in the early nineties, he
drove me up and up and around, and finally I
came upon through the Hollywood Hills and I came upon

this weird lake and I was like, well, what is this?
And he just started whistling Andy Griffith and I was like, no,
He's like, yep, this is it. I knew it wasn't Mayberry,
but I didn't know really anything about how movies were
made at the time. Sure, so it was just surprising
to see that, Like the bat Cave is the Hollywood
Hills and the Andy Griffith Lake is right there.

Speaker 2 (37:55):
Yeah, same with the Hills in mash the Hills of Korea. Yeah,
there's a lot of songs too. We gotta we gotta
name check a few of these songs that have whistling
in them. Yes, there's walk like an Egyptian. It's a
good one, precisely, Okay, Yeah, demonstrate them all. Otis Redding's

Dock of the Bay very nice.

Speaker 1 (38:23):
My whistle is very dry. Right now, I'm not at
my top.

Speaker 2 (38:26):
Form Scorpions, Winds of Change.

Speaker 1 (38:29):
I can't think of that one. I know that song?
What is it?

Speaker 2 (38:35):
Oh, that's right, Yeah, it's good. There's also a bunch
of others. Me and Julio down by the schoolyard, Don't worry,
be Happy. Maybe the iconic whistling song, that one sudden
part where Axel Roses starts whistling in patience.

Speaker 1 (38:50):
Yeah, that was on my list. That's a great whistle.

Speaker 2 (38:53):
Lile, I Love You The Pixies song.

Speaker 1 (38:56):
Uh huh yeah, yeah, I'm going to see them next week.

Speaker 2 (39:00):
You're going to see the Pixies yea where.

Speaker 1 (39:03):
They're playing Chastain with Modest Mouse.

Speaker 2 (39:06):
Oh neat, So is Kim deal back with them yet?
Or no?

Speaker 1 (39:09):
Oh no, no, no, she's she's never coming back.

Speaker 2 (39:11):
Oh okay.

Speaker 1 (39:12):
And not only that, they kicked out pause their their
bass player that they've had for the past eight or
nine years.

Speaker 2 (39:18):
Wow. We black Francis is going on a tear.

Speaker 1 (39:21):
Huh yeah. I don't want to speak out of school
about why that may or may not have happened, but
it seems fairly disappointing from what I've read. Wow, yeah,
but I'm still going.

Speaker 2 (39:32):
Uh, what else was there? Oh? Mariah Carey is a
famous whistler.

Speaker 1 (39:37):
Well, eh, I know you're kidding around there. Mariah Carey
is noted for singing in what's called the flute register,
or the whistle register, which is a vocal register. It's
the highest one in the vocal register, higher than falsetto.
Even that very very few people can do. And they

call it the whistle register or the flute register because
those pitches can generally only be made by flutes and
whistles rather than a singer like Mariah.

Speaker 2 (40:06):
Once you hear it described as the whistle register, and
you hear those notes that she's sitting, you're like, oh
my god, that sounds exactly like a whistle. It's like
a perfect name for it. Yeah, but she's singing it.
It's absurd. Yeah, and all it should be essentially impossible
what she's doing. She's not the only one. Minnie Ripperton
is another famous one who hit the whistles register. Yeah,

the famous seventies souls songstress. All those are the two
of that come to mind. Okay, but that's I'm just
impressed to no end by that.

Speaker 1 (40:37):
What about the what's the name Aguilera.

Speaker 2 (40:41):
Christina Aguilera.

Speaker 1 (40:42):
Yeah, Yeah, she's got that whistle range. I've heard it.

Speaker 2 (40:45):
Does she really sure? Okay?

Speaker 1 (40:48):
I think she's there's a couple of younger artists. Actually,
she's not one of the younger artists anymore either.

Speaker 2 (40:53):
Really No, we're pretty old chun Yeah. Uh.

Speaker 1 (40:57):
You mentioned those competitions. The I think granddaddy of them
all was shuttered unfortunately in twenty fourteen. It started nineteen
seventy three, the Louisbourg or louis Bourg, I don't know
how they say it. They're in North Carolina, and it
was a big one, and like I said, it shut
down in twenty fourteen, and I believe it's now just

its own event. It was part of the Louisbourg College
Folk Festival and now it's the National Whistlers Convention. So
it more morphed then shut down.

Speaker 2 (41:28):
Yeah. I think it just became so popular people are like,
we want this to be its own event. Yeah. Somehow,
for some reason in twenty fourteen, that was the last one,
and that was the competition that's featured on Pucker Up
by the way. That National Whistler's Convention, I think it
was international. And then luckily a ficionaudo named Caroline Kaufman,

who said, hey, we're going to keep this going, created
the Masters of Musical Whistling competition in Pasadena, I think
starting in twenty twenty. This year's and off year, but
the website promises it's coming back in twenty twenty five.

Speaker 1 (42:03):
I love it. We should finish probably on some Guinness
records because my friend, if we want to take the
time and do a lot of paperwork, we could very
easily hold our own Guinness World record, and I kind
of think we should do it. What well, in twenty fourteen,
there was a Guinness record for the most people whistling

at the same time at a single venue, and it
was a mere eight hundred and fifty three people at
the Spring Harvest in the United Kingdom. We could bust
that record at one of our live shows very easily.

Speaker 2 (42:37):
Oh yeah, we totally. That's a great idea. We got
to get that in the works chuck.

Speaker 1 (42:42):
Yeah, which means who's going to do all the work,
because we talked about about, oh god, how much work
it is, and most people give up because there's so
much work to officially get a record, you know verified.

Speaker 2 (42:54):
This feels like a jerry job. Oh yeah, right, what
are we going to get everybody to whistle?

Speaker 1 (43:01):
Oh goodness, I mean probably the stuff you should know
jingle theme.

Speaker 2 (43:07):
Oh that's a good idea. I was thinking winds are
change and we would invite the escorpions to sing a
capella to the whistling.

Speaker 1 (43:13):
That's a good idea. We could just get up there
and go what were you doing?

Speaker 2 (43:25):
I think it was a Christmas Carol. I don't know
which one though.

Speaker 1 (43:29):
Wow. All right, well, as long as no one does
what you do, we'll be just fine.

Speaker 2 (43:34):
I thought we harmonized quite nicely. Oh okay, Well, let's
talk about some world records, because yes, I agree, we
should break that one, and we'll ask Jerry to help
us with that.

Speaker 1 (43:44):
We could do that everywhere, but probably DC, that's right,
or Atlanta. Well, we'll get in Atlanta.

Speaker 2 (43:52):
Yeah, we'll see. So in two thousand and four, this
is insane. Okay, no, this isn't a saying. This is
still pretty impressive. Marco Ferrera in two thousand and four,
and then Luca Zoki or Zochi Nozoki in twenty fourteen.
They hold the record for the world's loudest whistle. They

each reached one hundred and twenty five decibels. Again, I
don't remember what episode we were in, but that's like
rock concert level decibels. I think it was our plane travel.

Speaker 1 (44:23):
That's that is amazing. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (44:26):
Yeah, uh, the one that really knocks my socks off, though,
Is the one that Joshua Lockert broke?

Speaker 1 (44:32):
Oh the highest pitch? Yes, dude, I don't even know
what that means.

Speaker 2 (44:37):
Okay, so he has the world record for the world's
highest whistle in frequency ten five hundred and ninety nine hertz,
which is almost eleven kill it hurts, right, go look
up on YouTube eleven kill it hurts tone. And I
played it and I had my volume up about halfway

and it was just silent, and I was like, is
this a prank? Is this a joke? Like somebody goes
around and puts up like videos like they're playing a tone,
but then doesn't put any sound to it. And I
turned it all the way up and only then could
I hear it. It was that high pitched. It was
almost above like audible range of hearing. That's how high
pitched it was. That guy did that with a whistle.

It was It's amazing. I didn't hear it, but just
from knowing what that tone sounds like, I can't imagine
a human being doing that.

Speaker 1 (45:28):
I'm playing it right. Oh wait, turn it.

Speaker 2 (45:30):
Way up, but keep your wineglasses out of the room
because they will shatter.

Speaker 1 (45:37):
I'm hearing nothing, right, turn it up. No, it's up
all the way.

Speaker 2 (45:42):
Okay, well that's what I'm saying, like it's it's amazing,
Like I finally did hear it. I can confirm it's
not just a prank.

Speaker 1 (45:49):
Oh wait, I got it. Mm hm, oh my god.

Speaker 2 (45:53):
Somebody whistled like that.

Speaker 1 (45:56):
That's crazy.

Speaker 2 (45:58):
Yeah, we should just tell everyon We've been playing it
this whole time, just to prove our point. You can't
hear it because it's so high.

Speaker 1 (46:05):
Occasionally, ever since Ruby was a kid, I'll be in
the car here and there, and I'll go, everyone knows
I can sing lower than the new human, and then
she'll try and sing lower, and then I'll go, and I.

Speaker 2 (46:17):
Can sing higher than any Oh, that's pretty high.

Speaker 1 (46:20):
She will always, but it's not singing, of course, and
then she responds back fussly and is also not singing.

Speaker 2 (46:25):
Do any of you have the whistle register ability?

Speaker 1 (46:29):
Uh? No? No? And I feel bad that I really
lamed out on whistling, because I'm a prettyod whistle. I
can do some good warbles and stuff, but of course
under the gun, I'm all dry mouth. It's just not happening.

Speaker 2 (46:40):
Were you nervous.

Speaker 1 (46:42):
Yeah that too. I'm not no, but I'm not even
getting any warble.

Speaker 2 (46:51):
It's like a beautiful little lark flew into the room.

Speaker 1 (46:54):
As soon as we had stop, I'll be whistling like
a songbird. I guarantee it. It just I'm locking up right now.

Speaker 2 (47:00):
I've got that last whistle was great. I've got one
little fact to share.

Speaker 1 (47:05):

Speaker 2 (47:06):
So in one of the nineteen eighty four editions of
the British Medical Journal, there was a case study about
a patient who suffered a stroke and as they were recovering,
there are only way to communicate. They couldn't talk. They
had an elated mood. I saw it, described it so
imagine a really happy person who could only whistle. That's
how the guy was communicating as he came back as

he was recovering from his stroke. Isn't that amazing? I
couldn't talk. He whistled. He wasn't whistling in words. He
would just whistle as if he were communicating. That is
really sweet, I thought, so too. Yeah what else? Anything else?

Speaker 1 (47:43):
I got nothing else?

Speaker 2 (47:44):
Well then, everybody. That means, of course it's time for
listener mail.

Speaker 1 (47:50):
Hey guys, this is a follow up on trash in
the book plug this seems just like a wonderful thing. Hey, guys,
wanted to write in and give an extra big hat
tip your recent New York City trash episode. What joy
That episode brought me. I live in New York City
and I have what one may say is an obsession
with trash here Wow started during COVID as I was

locked down with my partner who then lived on Roosevelt
Island and his apartment head views of the East River
the path of the container garbage barges from ninety first
Street Marine transfer Station. I watched them, made efforts to
identify them, film them, and eventually it led to me
writing a children's book about New York City trash.

Speaker 2 (48:29):

Speaker 1 (48:30):
It's so cool. Seeing the multitude of the garbage was
jarring and all very fascinating. The book is about Gary,
a city rat, and his adventures with Marge. The garbage barge.
Is definitely not a full capture of the city's garbage,
but a story of one of its many routes. I
now live in Brooklyn with my partner, so I no
longer have regular views of the garbage barges boo, but

I still visit the river to look at them. Needless
to say, I love your other previous garbage related episodes
as well, and I want to say general thank you
for your show. I've been a listener since twenty sixteen,
learn so much from you across so many topics. And lastly,
I'm greatly looking forward to your live show in New
York at the end of the month. That is from
Jessica Chang in Brooklyn, New York. And Jessica's book is

Gary meets Margethebarge.

Speaker 2 (49:16):
That's awesome. Congratulations, Jessica. That's a great book idea. Yeah,
I gotta get that one.

Speaker 1 (49:22):
So go go buy it, go to some independent bookseller
of your choice or look it up online and it's
port Jessica.

Speaker 2 (49:28):
And then yeah, just walk in and say I'll take
one copy of Jerry meets Marche the Barge please, that's right,
and they'll go.

Speaker 1 (49:38):
Another one.

Speaker 2 (49:41):
If you want to be like Jessica and let us
know about an awesome book you wrote, we would love
to hear that. You can write about your book in
an email and send it off to Stuff podcast at
iHeartRadio dot com.

Speaker 1 (49:55):
Stuff you Should Know is a production of iHeartRadio. For
more podcasts, my heart Radio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple podcasts,
or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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