Compulsive tuneless whistling
February 22, 2007 7:45 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever been able to get someone who constantly, tunelessly whistles to themselves to stop?

I recently met someone whose constant, tuneless whistling drove a roommate to leave. By tuneless I don't mean "out of tune" whistling of a song or melody; I mean casual, constant non-melodic whistling, whistling that doesn't go anywhere, doesn't sound like a recognizable anything, but continues almost non-stop anyway. Do folks know they're doing it? Are there programs that try to help them stop? Searching just yields info about annoying machine whistle noises and compulsive Tourette's-like neurological syndromes, but that doesn't quite seem to fit the folks who just go through life filling silence with relatively formless whistling sounds. Has anyone studied this kind of thing?
posted by mediareport to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I had a co-worker years back who would whistle along with the radio, but in monotone. He'd keep the rhythm, but it was one pitch only. Drove us all batty. We basically made him cognizant of it by joining in, loudly. Not that he stopped, or anything, but we made him aware. You need to just up-front let this person know that their behavior is annoying. I'd say "Please stop," or something relevant.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:17 PM on February 22, 2007

I was an "out of tune whistler" who also did a fair amount of random whistling. Not endless, by any means, but I'm sure it annoyed those around me. After my (then) girlfriend finally told me how awfully out of tune I was and how it annoyed her so I promised to try to stop.

It wasn't easy. She had to bring it to my attention numerous times, but I hardly ever whistle now. When I do, I realize it within a matter of seconds and stop.

I say the only way to get someone to stop is to talk to them about it in a non-confrontational way and work with them to help them stop.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:20 PM on February 22, 2007

I am a frequent whistler myself, but I do it melodically and in tune and have at times been complemented on my exceptional whistling. Still, I annoy myself sometimes -- I will find that I have started whistling, and that it's not a particularly appropriate time to be whistling, but then once people notice the whistle it's almost required to sort of do a short little tune, just to show that I wasn't, say, whistling at them or anything, but that I was just whistling this little tune to myself, and once that's established I trail off and try to keep quiet. Why do I do this frequently? Some people drum on tables or tap their toes incessantly; I, apparently, whistle.

I appreciate it when people call me out when I am annoying with my whistling; it's far better then having them stew about it and talk to other people about how annoying I am.
posted by cubby at 8:48 PM on February 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Please expound upon the relative physical prowess of the whistler and the potential room mate. Pavlov says that with a sufficiently quick violent response to any whistling sound, whistling behavior approaches extinction with great rapidity.
posted by caddis at 9:16 PM on February 22, 2007

I did this for years. And when I had a gap between my front teeth, I'd 'whistle' through there when I was concentrating.

Took a long time, but I eventually broke the habit - mostly, anyway. I still occasionally manage to piss off my roommate by doing this (and when he interrupts me, I'm never aware that I've been doing it until he points it out).
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:26 PM on February 22, 2007

I'm a constant whistler, though generally in tune, (like cubby). I was doing it the other day in my office and a co-worker (we're an open-doors type office) yelled my name, like my mom used to. I apologized and stopped because I was bothering her. I think anyone with any common decency would. Just be sure to be nicer about it than she was ("Do you mind not whistling under xyz conditions?"), and I'm sure he/she will quit. It's like any fidgety habit; you aren't really aware of it, and really don't want to bother others with it.
posted by monkeymadness at 9:30 PM on February 22, 2007

tell him this universal truth - women HATE IT when men whistle. it has the same effect to many of us as nails dragged across a long blackboard.
posted by seawallrunner at 9:42 PM on February 22, 2007

Pity it's not universal, though. Excuse me, I have to go enjoy male whistling.

Mediareport: tell them to stop. Then politely remind them every single time they do it -- "I'm sorry, but you're whistling again." Maybe then they'll understand how constant it is.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 5:18 AM on February 23, 2007

A guy in our office used to do that ALL THE TIME. ALL THE FUCKING TIME. We'd tell him over and over and over that it was incredibly annoying. For some reason, he thought we were kidding and just kept on.

Eventually Management sent him a written warning letter.

He doesn't whistle anymore.
posted by friezer at 5:46 AM on February 23, 2007

These tuneless whistlings are how the aliens are communicating with us. You people just don't want to believe.
posted by Koko at 6:29 AM on February 23, 2007

Duct tape.
posted by yohko at 5:46 PM on February 23, 2007

Thanks to all the whistlers who responded; it helps to hear what it's like from the other side. Ingrained habit it is, apparently, but it's encouraging to hear it can sometimes be stopped through persistent reminders, if nothing else.

(Koko and yohko, thanks for the laughs, but in general posting in AskMe just to make wisecracks is discouraged, like it says below the comment preview box. Just a heads-up.)
posted by mediareport at 6:19 PM on February 23, 2007

I had a co-worker that would do this, I brought it to his attention nicely about a hundred times. He would always say, "Sorry" and resume about 10 minutes later.

What finally stopped him was this, everytime he would start to whistle, I would make the noise of sucking my teeth, it drove him nuts and I would have a good laugh.
posted by JujuB at 8:16 PM on February 23, 2007

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