Sunday, August 26, 2012

W is for...

W is for...watermelon, wind, whittle, whistle

W is for whistle

Did I mention I collect whistles?

I can’t whistle. Not pursing and blowing, not sucking in, not using two fingers placed strategically in the mouth, not no how. Well, rather, I can do all those things. Silently. Whatever the genetic code or the shape of mouth and throat or the neurons that connect the brain with the tongue, whatever it is that makes people be able to whistle, I don’t have that.

my first whistle

So if I want to be heard I have to yell really loud, which I’m pretty good at, or use a whistle. Not that I actually use whistles. But at some point I got interested in them.

By interested, I don’t mean find out how they work or how to make one. What I mean is...look at all those different whistles! And for some reason, I decided to collect them.

It wasn't really a conscious decision and I didn't announce to the world that that's what I was doing because we all know what happens when people find out you collect something. That's all you ever get until you're sick of it.

But I did tell my grandkids to be on the lookout for whistles and quite a few of them have been confiscated come from their hands. The others I picked up here and there at craft shows or little stores or resale shops.

These are all ceramic. The leopard god and the brightly colored oval from Peru are more rightly ocarinas since they have four or more holes. Apparently there's some disagreement about the difference between a whistle and an ocarina. The man in his bunny suit has three holes, the whistling face next to him has two as does the little barrel on the cord, and the little white fish or frog or whatever it is has one. The little peanut shaped one in the very front is the smallest whistle I have and also the loudest and most shrill.

These are all made out of wood. The bird has two tones since it also has one hole. When you press down on the crest it covers the hole and changes the note. The dark brown one right next to it plays two different notes at the same time. The bamboo is a slide whistle, the tone changing as you pull out or push in the stick at the end. The bee on the left was made by an artist who carves these whimsical sort of groupings and all the pieces are whistles. The little dragonfly makes more of a buzzing sound.

The stick in the back was whittled by a very clever man I had the great good fortune to know for a couple of years until our paths split off. It was, after he finished it, a working whistle but it would only work while the wood was still green. The next day the stick had dried out and it no longer worked.

I took another picture of it since you can't see the business end in the group shot.

These are all metal with the exception of the deer antler on the right. The antler is equally as shrill as the little clay peanut. The long one in back is another slide whistle. I once tried to whistle the Star Spangled Banner on it without much success. The brass and copper on the left is a bosun whistle, next to it is a dog whistle (I should have opened it), and next to that is an 'authentic' English Bobbie's whistle.

These are all plastic. That long yellow straw like thing in the back is not intended to be a whistle I don't think. I'm not sure what it was supposed to be but it does whistle if you blow in it. The orange one on the left makes more of a siren sound, the bright green also blows two tones at the same time. When you blow on the one bottom left, the little windmill turns and the circle next to it is another kind of dog whistle I think. Of the three common plastic whistles, the white one came off a Ukrainian life jacket (long story) and the dark green one came from the army. Neither one blows very loud.

They've been packed away since we moved because I didn't want to put them back in the secretary where they had been because it was dark and hard to see them. I finally have a little display case to put them in but it's from a resale shop and needs some repair.

I've picked a few to demonstrate for you.

antler whistle:

plastic siren whistle:

wood two note train whistle:

metal slide whistle:

gray ceramic whistle:


  1. You know, I don't collect things, as such, but if I did, I think that whistles would be a very cool thing to collect. What a nice post!
    I can whistle although I have never learned to make that sonic-busting whistle through two fingers that some people can do and I am so envious of those who can. I can, however, whistle through my thumbs. It's not loud, but I can do tunes, sort of.

  2. I thought W was going to be Windus and I didn't even get a mention. ;_)

  3. i would love to play those sounds but i know my dogs would go bonkers. :)

    what a cool collection of all types!

  4. Another reason I know we were separated at birth, giggle - I have never been able to whistle and my family finds it hysterical. I do this little splitter, splutter thing that only Pooldad can hear/understand and it gets his attention in the store when we are aisles apart - but other than that? Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

    I really like the idea of collecting whistles. Neat. But you don't have a cool train whistle. Why?

    And how apropos. A commercial is playing in the background [for Red Bull] as I type this and the cartoon character is whistling.

    We're being mocked ellen. Mocked I tell you. ::wink::

  5. PS when I said cool train whistle I meant one shaped like a train. The one you have IS cool sounding.

    The dog likes the antler whistle, but it about freaked out my husband. heehee

  6. I used to be able to whistle but lost the ability after a facial nerve was nicked in some emergency surgery. But I've never been able to whistle like my sister, who can stand on the porch, put two fingers in her mouth and retrieve a dog or her husband from the next county.

  7. That is a wonderful collection. I need to read it to the Little Princess. She gets upset because she can't whistle.

  8. Whenever my mother heard one of us girls whistling she would berate us saying "Only witches whistle" (apparently only witches can grow parsley from seed too)

    Love the collection and where you trying to play Star Spangled Banner again?

  9. What an awesome post! I love all the whistles. Listened to the examples too of course.

    The ceramic whistle has a melancholy sound. The others sound funny to me.

    Totally cool. You are so totally cool.

  10. what an unusual thing to collect. Now of course, you'll be given whistles from everybody, just the thing you wanted to avoid.

  11. I love your collection! My favorite is the rabbit man. This is much more sensible than collecting penguins - they aren't usually that small :)

    That metal slide whistle sounds like something from looney toons - ha!

    I can whistle - & if I had any breath control I would probably even whistle a tune.

  12. What a fun item to collect. I can certainly see the draw. You have a few lovely whistles there. Very cool to include some of the sounds. They perked Benny's ears up too. :)

  13. OK, I love the little audio clips. How great was that?!

  14. Ah, I use to blow a bosun's pipe just like the nifty brass number in your collection. How cool is that?

    (The collection, not my nefarious talent.)

  15. Love the post, that's why your blog in on my Blog roll.
    Here is a link to a tutorial I did on how to make a whistle

    Keep on whistlin'


I opened my big mouth, now it's your turn.