Hiss: Sire! Sire! They may be bandits.


Can the lost art of whistling make a comeback?

“No great or successful man ever whistles,” said New York University philosophy professor Charles Gray Shaw in 1931. “Whistling is an unmistakable sign of the moron. It’s only the inferior and maladjusted individual who ever seeks emotional relief in such a bird-like act as that of whistling,” he concluded.

Today, Shaw’s words probably wouldn’t elicit a response, but in those days whistling was viewed in a decidedly positive light. In the 1920s and ’30s, whistlers were accepted as professional artists, traveling with Big Bands and becoming household names in their own right. There were even schools—a total of nine, scattered around the U.S.—where one could go to study whistling, including Agnes Woodward’s Los Angeles School of Artistic Whistling.

Ordinary people enjoyed whistling—while walking down the street, doing chores, and of course, while they worked. (…) But it’s been at least a half-century since whistling was prominent in popular culture, and people who whistle in public today are likely to be greeted with looks of disapproval.

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