I'm just giving a little whistle, is all.
May 30, 2007 11:11 PM   Subscribe

How do you feel about whistling? Specifically, how do you feel about people who whistle songs in public places?

I love to whistle. I spend time honing my whistled versions of favorite songs, and when walking (especially at night), I enjoy really belting out my whistled tunes. If I heard someone else whistling in public and really putting themselves into it, I'd be delighted and possibly even approach them and talk to them about whistling. I love it!

However, I never hear anyone else whistling in public. Is this because the rest of the human race has reached a consensus that it's annoying? If you're someone who doesn't whistle while walking someplace in the dark, why not? How would you feel if you were walking near someone who was whistling really loud - say, for example, she was whistling "Summertime". What would you think? If she wasn't like whistling in your ear or anything, and if it wasn't indoors. Would you be like, "Damn, do I love that song"? Or more along the lines of, "Damn, do I hate that girl"?

I hate that I might be annoying people with what I feel to be a pretty awesome, fun habit. It never occurred to me that it might bug people (seriously, it really hasn't ever crossed my mind), but today I was whistling on my way to the bus a little after 9pm and a girl gave me some sort of Look. I couldn't tell what she was trying to convey, but it definitely has given me pause.

I'm going to buy a theremin in the next few months (and big headphones...both once I have a job) so I will have a musical outlet even if your comments convince me to stop whistling my little heart out. So be truthful! I get annoyed when people do things I think are inconsiderate in public spaces and I would prefer not to unknowingly be one of those people.
posted by crinklebat to Human Relations (70 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not annoyed. Also a whistler, sometime hummer and occasional singalong (tuneful, all). Nobody much seems annoyed to my face, maybe it's just awkward to be so extroverted, or an invasion of "private in public" space for some, but those are the dim souls with sewn-shut pockets.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:19 PM on May 30, 2007

I don't think it's annoying at all... I really enjoy people who can whistle tunefully.
posted by amyms at 11:21 PM on May 30, 2007

Yes it's annoying. It's just as annoying as when people sing, rap or play their radios loud enough that I have to listen to it.

However, I wouldn't let this fact stop you from whistling in a public space while you walking. I and I would think most people expect to be annoyed to a certain level when out in a public space.

Just please don't whistle when other people don't have the option of walking away from you.
posted by 517 at 11:26 PM on May 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

It's annoying. Even if its tuneful, its like that guy playing a small radio - that is, even if he's playing music I enjoy it's still an invasion of the public space.
posted by vacapinta at 11:27 PM on May 30, 2007

A good whistler is always welcome wherever I go. Whistle more!
posted by unixrat at 11:28 PM on May 30, 2007

I love to whistle, but am just as averse to doing it in populated-public as I am singing. I was so excited when I mastered inward whistling, so I never had to stop for breath. I'm always favorable to a public whistler; I dunno how I'd feel at the opera, but it's never come up.
posted by nomisxid at 11:29 PM on May 30, 2007

In the open is fine, in a bus or inside I would think it was strange - probably, sort of like 517 said, because I have less option to go away from you. I don't mind hearing other people whistle, I find it a really cheerful noise. However, I try never to do it in public myself because I am tuneless and horrible to hear.
posted by jacalata at 11:33 PM on May 30, 2007

It depends on what space we're currently occupying. If you're whistling in a large park or shopping mall, I might be put off a bit, but not to the point of rage. However, if we're in a locker room, or an elevator, or adjacent cubicles, you can bet I'm coming up with fascinating and intricate ways to end your hobby.

I know I sound like an asshole, and it's nothing personal, but sweet crocheted Vishnu do I find it annoying. I look upon it the same way as I would someone talking loudly on a cellphone. Unintentionally or no, you're invading my headspace with your olfactory boombox, and making me want to go all Spock-from-Star-Trek-IV on you.
posted by Shecky at 11:34 PM on May 30, 2007

I (usually) like it.
posted by robcorr at 11:35 PM on May 30, 2007

Go for it.

If I hear good whistling it makes me happy, probably because I presume that the whistler is happy too. But then again, i'm likely to sing as I'm walking along. And I'm likely to approach strangers and praise them on their clothes or their haircut.

Culturally, some cultures are more anti-whistling than others - in russia there's a saying that "if you whistle you have no money" - particularly if someone's whistling indoors.
posted by pipstar at 11:37 PM on May 30, 2007

I was studying in the library one day, and this oblivious kid listening to an ipod with his head buried in his book was listening to My Humps on repeat. We all knew because he kept whistling to the chorus. He kept at it to the point I threw my sandal at him. He finally got the hint.

Just refrain from whistling anything Top 40 and you're a-ok in my book.
posted by Mach3avelli at 11:40 PM on May 30, 2007

I was in a bookstore and someone had to pass me in an isle while whistling and the dork blew right in my face. Aside from that I admire a good whistler.
posted by Iron Rat at 11:41 PM on May 30, 2007

Perhaps a bit off topic, but speaking of isles (sorry Iron Rat); once upon a time I saw at the Hale Koa military hotel in Honolulu at xmas time there was a whistler performance artist in the lobby whistling xmas tunes with a ukulele back up. I'm not sure if it was annoying or not, but it added to the surreality of my experience as mainlander in Hawaii at xmas time.
posted by Dr. Lurker at 11:48 PM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just please don't whistle when other people don't have the option of walking away from you.

That would sum up my opinion on it. I don't mind it on the street, but I once had a boss who would whistle along to the CDs he played in a big communal work room, and OH MY GOD did we all want to kill him.

I'm not sure it was the whistling per se -- we probably would have felt just as annoyed if he had been singing -- but the whole "YOU MUST BE WITNESS TO MY ENTHUSIASM FOR THIS SONG" was unbearably obnoxious.
posted by occhiblu at 11:53 PM on May 30, 2007

olfactory = smell
auditory = sound
posted by nomisxid at 11:58 PM on May 30, 2007

If you can whistle Dixie, without breaking octaves, on pitch, and maybe with tremelo or vibrato, or The Star Spangled Banner, with its full range, then you can whistle in public. These tunes are not so easy to whistle straight as people imagine, so people who can perform them, can truly whistle.

But many people who whistle don't do so on pitch, or have the range for the tunes they want to whistle, and so break octaves, or keys, or pitches, all of which are annoying in small amounts, and downright irritating if all must be endured together. If your warblings are truly musical, you may leave a trail of smiling admirers, but if you're getting dirty looks, take heed.
posted by paulsc at 12:00 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Generally, I don't mind a whistler. I find that it's more the person than the whistling that makes me give a thumbs up or down. Some people are creepy, hence, their whistling is creepy. You don't strike me as one of those.

If you are into whistling, you've got to check out Pucker Up on dvd. It documents the 31st annual Whistling competition. It was a great movie.

posted by healthyliving at 12:22 AM on May 31, 2007

Go for it. My mother whistles in public (very nicely, imo) and she usually gets compliments. It's also how I find her in public places. Doing it in say, the elevator might be a bit much but in open spaces, go for it.
posted by MadamM at 12:45 AM on May 31, 2007

Whistling drives me mad, particularly when old blokes do it (this might be a UK phenomena).

I don't know how anybody can find somebody whistling entertaining, unless the whistling is done really f***ing well, as in virtuoso-could-be-in-an-orchestra. I have heard people whistling that kind of quality and it's astonishing. There are whistling competitions each year. But that kind of quality is damned rare.

The thing about whistling is that it's done for the entertainment of the person's whose lips it's coming out of. If you think you're doing it for the entertainment of others then you're deluded.
posted by humblepigeon at 12:45 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm with 517. I'm not a fan of whistling myself (it's usually so high-pitched that it makes me cringe a bit), but I think it would be okay if you were just walking down the street or in an equally open space. Don't do it if people don't have the option of getting away from the whistling, though, such as on a bus, subway, airplane, elevator, or such.
posted by Trinkers at 12:52 AM on May 31, 2007

whistle on! the negative looks you get from people stem from their own inability to whistle as well, and the wish that they could. tell them what lauren bacall said "just put your lips together and blow."
posted by bruce at 2:46 AM on May 31, 2007

I used to work in a big office with a guy who would whistle all the time. Often he'd whistle (no joke) the interscene music from Star Wars - what would be playing while they did a screen wipe or whatever. It was annoying as fucking hell and I wanted to throttle him.

If someone was doing it at the bus stop? It would be annoying but less so. Anywhere with a roof? Uncalledfor.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 3:09 AM on May 31, 2007

Please do not whistle inside. Consider not whistling outside.
posted by zemblamatic at 3:20 AM on May 31, 2007

Yes, whistling is really annoying. I used to work with a pair of whistlers. It drove me crazy. It's much more intrusive than someone humming. The sound is more extroverted; it feels show-offy. And the more complicated the tune, the worse it is.
posted by bluebird at 4:18 AM on May 31, 2007

I second (third? fourth?) not whistling at work. Cube mate whistling is second only to breaking out into epic desk drum solos in my book of things that make me want to bring physical harm to a cube mate.

On the other hand I used to use an archnemesis' whistling to track when he would leave his desk so I'd know when it was safe to walk into that area.
posted by saraswati at 4:24 AM on May 31, 2007

I love whistling. I like to hear other people whistle. My nickname at work is grasshopper (in Spanish) because I whistle so much. (It should be noted that I work in a very loud environment where everyone has to wear ear plugs and I do not work in the vicinity of others...my whistling is for my own entertainment.) I do occasionally whistle in the hallways on my way to breaks and whatnot. If people are annoyed, they have never said anything.
posted by catseatcheese at 4:27 AM on May 31, 2007

So annoying. Please don't do it when I can't escape. Also, when you have kids, no, we don't like it when they run through the plane shouting. Geez.
posted by dame at 4:56 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

The negative looks you get from people stem from their own inability to whistle as well, and the wish that they could.

Unless it's from me. In that scenario, rest assured, I'm just annoyed.
posted by gnomeloaf at 5:13 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

I seem to react to whistling more violently than most people here . . . interesting.

I find it TOTALLY obnoxious. Just like when people impose music on you, only worse. Whistling may sound great to the whistler because they have the song playing in their head. But to me it just sounds like weird, high-pitched disconnected sounds that may vaguely or may not at all resemble a tune.

Plus, it seems to me like a private indulgence, like scratching the crotch or singing in the shower.

I definitely cast furious looks at people who whistle in public.
posted by bluenausea at 5:40 AM on May 31, 2007

Whistling is not that easy. Some people are better at it than others. Some people can't stay in key / on pitch, to the point that it's impossible to tell what song they're attempting to render.
posted by amtho at 5:57 AM on May 31, 2007

I share an office with a whistler. He whistles as he comes in a room, as he leaves the room, as he walks through the lobby, as he sits at his desk, constantly, all day long.

It. Drives. Me. Crazy.

To me, people who whistle in public are passive-aggressive to the extreme. Their activity completely intrudes on everyone around them, and yet there is nothing anyone can do without looking like a stick in the mud or a shushing librarian. If my co-worker would just *once* ask me, "Does my whistling bother you?" I could politely say, "Thank you for asking, that's very considerate of you. Actually, yes, it does." But he never does ask, he just keeps twittering away. Just as other whistlers "out in the wild" do. Yet, you have just asked, and you have seen that a significant number of people *are* saying, "Yes, it's VERY annoying!" So now you know for sure.

The negative looks you are getting are because people are annoyed. Something you are willfully doing, which is solely for your own amusement, is disturbing them. Do you really want to be this person?

Whistle in the privacy of your own home, car, etc. Don't inflict it on others, please.
posted by purplegenie at 6:02 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

I like it - as long as I'm not trapped near the whistler in an enclosed space.

In Hawaii, you shouldn't whistle after dark; according to my family, doing so attracts the attention of (bad, presumably) spirits. I haven't lived there in years, but I still feel weird if I catch myself whistling after sunset.
posted by rtha at 6:14 AM on May 31, 2007

It's a performance in public, one that is unsolicited and where you don't know if it's welcome or not. Reminds me of the lady who lived a block away from us in Galveston who would walk down the street loudly singing "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling." And I, sitting on my porch or in my house with windows open, was a captive audience. I would have liked to have had a choice.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:16 AM on May 31, 2007

I usually look for a large, hefty object that I could use to bash in the skull of any whistler that comes within earshot. Save it for home or in the car.
posted by trondant at 6:28 AM on May 31, 2007

Whistling is like nudity... occasionally OK in public, but better at home in private. It's invasive and a tad inescapable, thus, falls in the too-much-cologne arena of objectionable behavior as far as I am concerned.
posted by FauxScot at 6:32 AM on May 31, 2007

I like it - as long as I'm not trapped near the whistler in an enclosed space.

This is key. Also, the less repetitive the whistling the better. If you only know the chorus to the song? Do not whistle it. Also, be good. We once had an upstairs neighbor who was a world-class whistler. We would actually mute the TV or stop talking to listen to him sometimes. He mostly whistled improv-style (or they were songs we didn't know), which I also think helped.

Put some on MeFi Music?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:35 AM on May 31, 2007

I like it. But I am completely annoyed/creeped out by people who sing in public.
posted by apostrophe at 7:14 AM on May 31, 2007

I've gone up to complete strangers and asked them to stop whistling. It's like nails on a blackboard to me. Also, I figure a guy who is lighthearted enough to whistle probably isn't going to beat me into a pulp for asking him to stop.
posted by desjardins at 7:18 AM on May 31, 2007

I don't mind it myself, but as you can see from this thread there are those who very much do. (I have a friend who practically froths at the mouth when the subject comes up: "There's nothin' worse than a whistlin' man!") Since you love it so much, do it in open areas where no one's trapped listening to you, but if someone gives you a Look, they probably don't like it, and you might want to give it a rest until they're out of earshot.
posted by languagehat at 7:50 AM on May 31, 2007

No offense, but I'm with bluenausea, I would slay whistlers if it was permitted.

It's the high-pitchedness of the tune combined with the loudness, what bugs me most, I think. Plus, you just can't escape whistling, you hear a whistler coming from quite far away and long after he has passed you. Added to that, it's often very repetitive. Unfortunately, almost every house and every office has his whistler(s).

It's like that guy on your block who plays really loud music in the summer, while everyone has their windows open, so you're forced to listen to it the whole day. If noisemakers just had the courtesy to keep their windows closed, the entire neighbourhood could have their windows open to enjoy the cooling breeze.

And not that I'm a big, sad, depressed pessimist, but whistlers always whistle happy, joyful, playful, optimistic-sounding songs. It's like they're screaming in a high-pitched voice: "Look at how happy I am, I'm the biggest cuddliest happy butterfly on the planet and I want everyone to know how happy I am so that's why I'm screaming! Look at me, look at me! I'm so happy and I don't care about the rest of the world!"

I know that for a lot of whistlers it's a subconscious thing to start whistling, they've always done it and they wouldn't even consider it could be annoying. And of course I know that it's not to grab attention or the let the world know how happy they are. They just like to whistle. I know all that, but it still irritates me enormously. I really really really can't stand it, which is probably apparent just from the length of my comment.

So, although you're a whistler, might I give you a big hug for being open to the possibility of being annoying? It's apparently a rare trait among whistlers.
posted by lioness at 7:57 AM on May 31, 2007

Good whistling = Good times

Bad Whistling = Bleeding ears ahhhh!!!

There is a man who rides his bike down my street who whistles the most beautiful whistle Ive ever heard! Its always a treat for me when he rides by because I wish I could whistle with his skill
posted by Tinen at 8:55 AM on May 31, 2007

It's annoying. One can't whistle softly to himself--the only volume choices are loud, louder, and loudest.
I don't take the ipod earbuds out of my ears and force random people to listen to my musical choices. I'd appreciate the same courtesy.
posted by almostmanda at 8:56 AM on May 31, 2007

I agree with most of the anti-whistling comments above. I think that whistling is as rude and offensive as those bass-pumping car stereos.
As good as you may think it is, the fact remains that no one wants to hear your music (whether you are a young, ghetto gangbanger or a soft bellied, middle-aged, bald guy) and you are forcing them to listen to something they would rather not be subjected to. And regardless of what, where, or how you whistle, it is VERY annoying. Please repent.
posted by nineRED at 8:57 AM on May 31, 2007

Whistle loud and proud. My dad was a whistler. So good that he was on Armed Forces Radio... and better than anything I ever saw on Johnny Carson. Unfortunately I never had the foresight to record him...
posted by Gungho at 8:58 AM on May 31, 2007

Whistle in open spaces - sounds like a good guide in life. Whislters who pick good tunes (like Summertime) are fine by me - I just feel jealous since I can't really whistle for some reason. Anyone who tries to bring a little levity and music out in the open and into the day is good in my books - that someone's got a song in their head kind of cheers me up. And sometimes a whistle is JUST a whistle.

But damn, a theremin? Now that's some beautifully creepy whistlin' device. Have fun! Recently saw DeVotchKa play in San Francisco and the lead singer used a theremin on stage. Beautiful stuff. Also recently heard the Meat Puppets play (!) and they did in fact play The Whistling Song (snippets from Last.fm here, video from YouTube here). So there ya go - completely useless musical tangent, but maybe you can check both bands out and whistle along to your heart's content.
posted by rmm at 8:59 AM on May 31, 2007

I don't mind it in public public spaces, such as on the sidewalk, or at the park.

In places where I can't easily escape, or shouldn't have to want to escape - at work, at the library, in line at the store, in the movie theater while the movie is showing - whistlers pollute my local environment and I would slay them if it were permitted.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:00 AM on May 31, 2007

People who feel compulsively violent towards whistlers obviously have a problem, and should seek help. It's whistling, not pissing in your cornflakes. Seriously. Whistlers don't whistle in order to annoy you.

I'm sure it is a bit odd to whistle in public. I don't think I do this. I do whistle at home. And yes, paulsc, no problem w/the Star Spangled Banner. But what gets me going best is some good flute playing (eg Thejis Van Leer). Silly? Maybe. But I can do it while I'm busy around the house.
posted by Goofyy at 9:02 AM on May 31, 2007

I think most of the complainers above have never heard good whistling. It is an instrument not unlike a flute. Most people probably have never heard it. So if you're thinking whistling like at the beginning of "The Bridge on the River Quai", you're thinking wrong.
posted by Gungho at 9:03 AM on May 31, 2007

I'm a big fan of good whistling. I once had the pleasure of sharing an office with a masterful whistler who whistled, say, at least one song an hour. I found it relaxing and just as pleasant as having a songbird in the office with me. I much preferred it to having music playing on the radio. If he had been actually singing, it would have bothered me. I think the difference is that there were no words to distract. In public places I find it equally pleasant provided that the whistler is simply going about his/her business. I am bothered if they make a big deal about it and look at me expectantly like I'm supposed to get involved or be impressed or something.
posted by textilephile at 9:25 AM on May 31, 2007

I love to hear a *good* whistler if I'm walking down the street or in a park or something, but get irrationally irritated if I hear the same person whistling indoors. It might just be my hyper-mannered upbringing, but I was always taught that it was unforgivably rude to whistle indoors.
posted by non sum qualis eram at 9:28 AM on May 31, 2007

Some people like to hear whistling. Others do not.
posted by found missing at 9:35 AM on May 31, 2007

I like to use this as a gauge for what is cool vs. what is uncool.

If an old, crusty, cowboy-looking guy who is 85 is likely to be awesome at it, it is cool. This applies to whistling, rope tricks, horseback riding (Western-style), and telling stories over beers.

If a musical theater major is likely to do it, it is uncool. This applies to public singing, public crying, and talking too loudly about oneself over Cosmopolitans.
posted by mckenney at 9:48 AM on May 31, 2007 [7 favorites]

As others have said, if you're very good at it it's cool, otherwise it's not. I could listen to Andrew Bird whistle all day, but most whistlers are not Andrew Bird.

If a musical theater major is likely to do it, it is uncool.

This is seriously a maxim to live by.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:59 AM on May 31, 2007

I like whistling myself, and I like it when people whistle... I'm a huge extrovert, and I guess I associate with people being happy and not taking things overly seriously. My grandfather taught me how to whistle after convincing me that wild blueberries were in fact whistleberries. I am was so excited about finding the whistleberries that I learned how to whistle in no time.

... But yeah, I don't whistle in elevators, buses, trains, in my cube, etc where people have to put up with you for a specific long(er) amount of time... I mainly whistle walking on the sidewalk or to the train station, in the lobbies of big buildings, and a LOT in my car.
posted by wonderwisdom at 10:13 AM on May 31, 2007

I once heard that whistling's very acceptable in Australia (but I've never been, so can't confirm).

Long as I'm not working next to you, I don't mind (unless you're a tuneless type who's just making noises only YOU think resembles the original).
posted by Rash at 10:14 AM on May 31, 2007

I think most of the complainers above have never heard good whistling.

The question was whether whistling is likely to annoy people. The consensus seems to be that, yes, at least *some* people are *very* annoyed by it.

You may be right about the good whistler thing but its impossible to know whether the OP falls into that category or not. And so given that, best to err on the side of caution methinks.
posted by vacapinta at 10:20 AM on May 31, 2007

Speaking as a good whistler- yes, it's very very annoying to do it indoors, and even outdoors if people are trapped (like in line for something). Stop doing it. It doesn't matter if you're a virtuoso.

The reason it's "bad luck" to whistle indoors in a lot of countries is because the people trapped in with you will come and kill you. The other "reasons" are just cover.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:23 AM on May 31, 2007

Gungho, if I were trapped in a building with a person who wouldn't stop playing the flute, that person would also warrant a swift death.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:25 AM on May 31, 2007

I like people whistling as they walk down the street or ride their bikes. I wouldn't want to be trapped someplace with some tuneless whistler, but it's far less annoying to me than being trapped with people who talk on their phones.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:35 AM on May 31, 2007

No offense, but I'm with bluenausea, I would slay whistlers if it was permitted.

What lioness said.

Whistling = Fingernails on a blackboard.

Thank You.
posted by Carnage Asada at 10:58 AM on May 31, 2007

If you've any skill at it, go for it. Nothing better than listening to a capable whistler. Whistling is joy made manifest.

Caveat: I'm an unrepentant whistler. Thankfully I have my own office and, I like to think, a certain level of skill.
posted by lekvar at 11:31 AM on May 31, 2007

A crooning cow, a crowing hen, and a whistling maid boded never luck to a house.-- KELLY Scotish Proverbs (1723)

A whistling wife and a crowing hen, Will call the Old Gentleman out of his den. Notes and Queries (1855)

A whistling woman and a crowing hen Will bring no luck to the house of men. Lore and Language (1972)

So if you're ready for the devil to appear and to bring ruin down upon your family, whistle away!
posted by jamjam at 12:05 PM on May 31, 2007

It depends entirely on where and what kind it is.

Someone whistling on the sidewalk, in a park, in a mall, or in other open spaces? Rock on!

Someone whistling in a store? Cool.

Someone whistling along to the music in a store? Annoying, unless you're SO good that your whistling is indistinguishable from the music. (If it's good music, you're making it less enjoyable. If it's bad music, you're drawing attention to it when I'm trying to ignore it.) But, I can walk away from it, so it's just a little twinge.

Someone whistling at a bus stop? I can walk away from it, but not very far. Kind of annoying--moreso if it's loud and I can still hear it from twenty feet away or so.

Someone whistling at a table in a restaurant, or on the bus? Quite annoying. I can't really get away from it unless I want to ask to be moved to a different table/get off before my stop. If I can't get away from it, then it's being inflicted on me.

Someone whistling in a place that's meant for quiet work or study (say, that area of a library)? I am fantasizing about bludgeoning them with a heavy object. I'm not going to do it, but I'm wishing I could.

(And all of the above apply only to reasonably tuneful whistling that isn't very loud. If it's loud, or tuneless, that knocks it down at least a category or two.)

But yeah--whistling on your way to the bus stop (assuming you were outside)? I don't think you're annoying for that. Maybe that person felt differently, or maybe they didn't think much of your taste in music/tunefulness.
posted by Many bubbles at 1:01 PM on May 31, 2007

Keep in mind that there's a significant minority of people who are more sensitive to their environment than "normal"; something you can enjoy in the background or tune out could well drive someone else completely nuts.

I'm one of the latter; maybe I have some level of sensory integration disorder, maybe I'm a HSP, or maybe I'm just an irritable git.

Either way, I find it distracting and often quite annoying when someone invades my acoustic space with loud talking, music, jingles (the local ice cream van guy needs to die screaming... quietly), and yes, sometimes whistling. That means, please don't do it while you're in my workplace, or on public transport, and if you're loud think again about doing it while walking past people's houses; have some consideration that at least some of the people around you probably don't perceive the world in precisely the same way you do.
posted by Freaky at 2:12 PM on May 31, 2007

Most people don't have very good relative pitch, and this extends to whistlers. Whilst my absoulte pitch kind of sucks, my relative pitch is excellent. This makes whistling painful, because they are almost always 1/8th of a tone out, in all different directions.

Dad does birdcalls, and that's okay, because they're not music. Whistlers who try to do songs ... well, I've met one or two in my life I can deal with for more than around 30 seconds. After that, it's actively painful to listen to.

So unless you are really, really good, please don't. It hurts.
posted by ysabet at 4:37 PM on May 31, 2007

I'm with the brigade saying "Whistle a happy tune." Myself, I tend to whistle outdoors, and usually while walking. Not out of consideration for my fellow-humans or anything... whistling is just something I associate with being outdoors in a good mood. For a very good mood, I sing. (Outdoors, if there's no one else in visual range.)

I get horribly annoyed on public transport by people who play their stupid headphones too loudly or, God forbid, their MP3 players out loud. (I'd be too self-conscious to make a musical noise on public transport or in an crowded indoor space, I think.)

However, if those same loud-headphone-wearers start singing to themselves, no matter how crap, I suddenly find it adorable. I think the loud mechanised music is saying "I am so important, I don't care that I'm invading your space with my horrible taste in music," but a person singing suddenly makes themselves very vulnerable.

Anyway, yeah, I'd say go ahead and whistle if you want to.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:31 PM on May 31, 2007

Well, I think it's clear that some people find whistling in public to be annoying (I'm not one of those people, FWIW). To which I say, so what! Being in public entails the risk of being annoyed by someone or something: people wearing too much perfume; barking dogs; annoying ringtones; loud cell phone conversations; loud two-person conversations; loud conversations among a group of people; fat people occupying too much of sidewalk, walking too slowly; small children yelling; overly large two-child strollers pushed by aggressive yuppie moms; loud cars; loud car alarms; loud car stereos; loud hand-carried stereos; bicyclists; bicyclists loudly ringing bicycle bells; bums; smelly bums; loud smelly bums; people asking for directions; people asking what time it is...shall I go on?

No one has a right to force everyone else to avoid doing the specific, idiosyncratic things that they find annoying -- the possibility of being annoyed is part of the risk you run when leaving your house. So whistle your little heart out, and screw the haters.
posted by myeviltwin at 5:31 PM on May 31, 2007

My street has a number of retired people living on it, and there is one older man who is a fabulous whistler. It is such a treat to be working at home on a warm spring morning with the windows open and to hear him whistling as he goes about his chores.
posted by slowstarter at 12:03 AM on June 1, 2007

It actually drives me freaking batty. Something about the sound just drills straight into my brain and makes me wince. I'd rather listen to a jackhammer.

I don't think that the whistlers are being passive-aggressive or trying to annoy people. I'm sure it's very pleasurable to them, and obviously, some people like whistling. Just not to me. And, obviously, some others.

But whistlers, when you see someone politely writhing in pain at the sound, consider just...stopping.
posted by desuetude at 7:51 AM on June 1, 2007

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