Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/265

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253
WHISTLING.

exhibited at the end of the last century his talent on the stage of Covent Garden Theatre, and attracted for some time considerable notice.[1]

Anyhow, the universality of the prejudice against women whistling is an acknowledged fact, and there are few localities where one may not hear the familiar rhyme:


"A whistling wife and a crowing hen
"Will call the old gentleman out of his den."

Of course there are various versions, as, for instance, in Northamptonshire, where the peasantry say:


"A whistling woman and a crowing hen
Are neither fit for God nor men."

The Cornish saying is to the same effect: "A whistling woman and a crowing hen are the two unluckiest things under the sun." Similar also is the French proverb, "Une poule qui chante le coq et une fille qui siffle portent malheur dans la maison." The same superstition prevails among the seafaring community; and Mr. Henderson[2] relates how, a few years ago, when a party of friends were about to go on board a vessel at Scarborough, the captain caused no small astonishment by declining in the most emphatic way to allow one of them to enter it: "Not that young lady," he cried out; "she whistles." By a curious coincidence, the vessel was lost on her next voyage; so, had the young lady formed one of the party, the misfortune would certainly have been attributed to her. After all, it seems hard that, if the mere act of whistling can help to cheer a man, such a soothing influence should be denied to a woman. "If whistling," says a writer in the "Phrenological Journal," "will drive away the blues and be company for a lonesome person, surely women have much more need of its services than their brothers, for to them come many more such occasions than to men. There is a physical advantage in whistling which should excuse it against all the canons of propriety or 'good form.' It is often remarked that the average girl is so narrow-chested, and in that respect compares so unfavorably with her brother, which may be due in some measure to the habit of whistling which every boy acquires." An eminent medical authority says: "All the men whose business it is to try the wind-instruments made at the various factories before sending them off for sale are, without exception, free from pulmonary affections. I have known many who, when entering upon this calling, were very delicate, and who, nevertheless, though their duty obliged them to blow for hours together, enjoyed perfect health after a certain time." As the action of blowing wind-instruments is the same as that of whistling, the effects should be the same. Whistling has been popularly styled the "devil's music," the reason, in all probability, being

  1. See an article entitled "Mouth Music" in "Book of Days," i, 751.
  2. "Folk-lore of the Northern Counties," 1879, p. 43.