Why Can’t I Whistle?

–Lauren Bacall lied

In the Bogart/Bacall movie, To Have and Have Not, Bacall says to Bogie, “If you want me, just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”

She lied. It ain’t that easy. Not by a longshot. When I put my lips together and “blow,” it sounds like a fart and everyone knows that women don’t fart.

I started thinking about whistling after hearing a song — a rock song, of all things — where the lead singer broke into a truly impressive whistle that lasted for several seconds. Too, I noticed that in several of the black and white films of the forties, there’s quite a bit of whistling that goes on. Usually while one of the main characters saunters down a leafy side street.

Sauntering and whistling. There’s something so free and easy about that, you know? And innocent.

And what about the theme of The Andy Griffith Show? Now there’s some whistling for your ass.

And we’ve all heard of a “wolf whistle,” which men direct toward women they’re trying to attract, but usually repel.

According to Wondoropolis, a whistle is a sort of high-pitched sound made by forcing air through a small opening.

As I said! Like a fart!

As I’ve been taking some shit here for stupidly speaking my mind, I may take a break from writing to learn how to whistle. If nothing else, it will expand my extraordinary skill-set and give me a sort of “life of the party” vibe. If I ever get invited to another.

For you know-it-alls who think there’s just one way to whistle, I’m here to tell you, you’re wrong.

There are at least three ways to whistle. And, according to no less than The Wall Street Journal, the secret to whistling isn’t in the lips. That’s why no one can really explain how to do it as the action takes place in our mouths.

Your lips play a small role as they don’t impact the vibration of the air inside your mouth. So it doesn’t matter if your lips are lush and plush or lacking in oomph. There are actually scientists who study this! WHY? Regardless, they’ve discovered that whistling can reach 120 decibels and travel nearly a mile!

Considering that whistling has more to do with the inside of our mouth, it makes sense that the tongue would be a major player. Let’s just see if that’s the case, shall we?

Okay. Wondoropolis says that the tongue is indeed involved, as are the lungs. Wow. Whistling really is complicated AF. Who knew?

So, how the hell does one whistle, anyway?

Healthline suggests trying the following four options:

Whistle through your lips.

Wet your lips, first, then pucker up. (Or have someone else wet them.) Blow air through your lips, softly at first. You should hear a tone. Blow harder, and relax your tongue. Adjust your lips, jaw, and tongue to create different tones. Hmmm. This sounds very oral-sexy to me.

Whistle with your fingers.

Have your thumbs facing you and place the tips of your two pinkies together to form an A shape, while holding down your other fingers. Conversely, use your index fingers, or your thumb and index finger on one hand.

  1. Wet your lips and tuck your lips inward over your teeth (as if you’re a toothless baby, or you’re blowing someone with a low tolerance for pain).
  2. Push your tongue back on itself with the tips of your pinkies until your first knuckles reach your lip.
  3. Keeping your tongue folded, your lips tucked, and your fingers in your mouth, close your mouth tightly. The only opening should be between your pinkies.
  4. Blow gently. Air should only come out of the opening between your pinkies. If you feel air escaping anywhere else, your mouth isn’t closed all the way. Or, you just farted.
  5. Once you’re sure you’re in the right position, blow harder until you hear a high-pitched sound and the neighborhood dogs come running. Aieeeeeeeeeee!

Whistling with your tongue. (I like this one.)

  1. Once again, wet those lips and pucker, baby.
  2. Keep your mouth slightly open and place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, just behind your two front teeth. Once again, you should hear a high-pitched sound. The tone will be amplified the more you pucker and the harder you blow.
  3. Want to switch up the tones? Pucker and widen your mouth as if in a narrow smile (or grimace).

Suck in air.

You know the drill. Wet those lips and pucker. Suck in air until you hear a whistling sound (your jaw may drop slightly). The harder you suck in air, the louder the sound.

See how easy whistling is? I’m going to head out for a walk right now and give it a try as I saunter through my neighborhood and ponder some of the shitty comments I recently received from good and kind readers.

And I’d love it if you give whistling a shot, too, and let me know how you fared. If nothing else, your oral-sexy-time will get a boost.

You’re welcome.


Sherry McGuinn
Sherry McGuinn
Sherry McGuinn is a long-time, Chicago area, advertising/marketing writer, blogger and, for the last fifteen years, screenwriter. A big-time dreamer and proud of it, Sherry has had two short films produced, one in L.A., the other in New York. Both won several awards and screened at festivals but she is still "fighting the good fight," in order to become a full-time, working screenwriter. A passionate straight-shooter who never rests on her laurels, Sherry writes about damn near everything because how do you encapsulate…life? Unflinching in her determination to “just tell the truth,” Sherry strives to educate, engage and inspire others to follow their dreams. A lifelong animal lover and advocate, Sherry resides in a Chicago suburb with her husband and their three fabulous felines.

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  1. That’s defintely more than I needed to know about whistling. But interesting nonetheless. I never master the art of whistling with my fingers in my gob. I knew a lot of guys who could and I envied them. I even knew a guy who could whistle like that using his index finger and his thumb. That was spectacular. I have used the line from To Have and Have Not in posts a couple of times. That was, I believe the first movie they they made together. I loves all those noirish 40s movies. In fact, I’m actually thinking about an idea for a screenplay that’s written in that style. It’s not as easy as you might imagine. But then where’s the fun in doing something easy.
    Great post. Keep getting into trouble. It’s a sure fire way to know you’re having fun.

    • Jim, I’m a screenwriter so I know how hard that is. I, too, am a fan of Noir. The slick guys in their cool hats. The femme fatales. The smoke (!) The overall atmosphere is just spectacular to me.

      I hope you write your script. You’ve got nothing to lose, right? And thanks so much for reading and commenting.