Posted by Smokey Stover on March 20, 2007
In Reply to: Crooning cow? posted by pamela on March 20, 2007
: : : : : : : : : Where does the phrase "A whistling woman and a crowing hen are neither fit for God nor men" originate? Exactly what does it mean and old how it it? Thanks for your help.
: : : : : : : : It means that these are traditionally considered unnatural and improper activities for females, and that females who perform them are unnatural and ill-omened. The earliest recorded version of this proverb is Scottish, and dates from 1721: "A crooning cow, a crowing Hen and a whistling Maid boded never luck to a house" ("Complete Collection of Scottish Proverbs, Explained and made Intelligible to the English Reader", by J Kelly.) (VSD)
: : : : : : : Whistling is not difficult, so why does one so rarely see or hear whistling women? One theory is that they don't care for the sound, and have better things to do. Another is rooted in female psychology. Athena is said to have given up the aulos or flute because playing it made her look peculiar and the opposite of beautiful. Perhaps women don't like to whistle because doing so involves something like "making faces." On the other hand, perhaps you remember the movie, To Have and Have Not, in which Lauren Bacall (Slim) says to Humphrey Bogart (Steve): "You don't have to say anything and you don't have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. (She opens his door and pauses.) You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together - and blow."
: : : : : : : SS
: : : : : : BBC radio had a program on folklore about why women shouldn't whistle. I can't listen to it on this computer - but it might be interesting. (It's at the bottom of the frist big box - there's another item about whistling higher up which isn't the right one):
: : : : : : http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/listenagain/ztuesday_20061107.shtml
: : : : : : I can't whistle at all (so it ain't that easy, Smokey), but I remember trying to mostly because girl's school stories (which I read avidly) were full of cool, whistling girls (who were always in trouble for this and other boyish behaviour). I'm sure that boys and girls probably whistle in equal measure, but girls give up (or are forced to) this behaviour as unfeminine. Alas, some girls take up "screaming at anything"
: : : : : : as an attention-seeking substitute. Pamela
: : : : : I don't really buy the "making faces" argument, since the face that's made looks like a kissy-pout, which isn't something women would regard as an unattrative face to make. An intersting issue ... Pamela
: : : : Pamela, thanks for your information and your URL. The latter gave me some trouble, as they were sound recordings made in a room with poor acoustics and with people speaking British. A woman of U.S. origin mentioned that in "Little Women" one of the girls is deterred from whistling because it is unladylike. The whistler was an astonishing virtuoso, and it would be a great pleasure to hear him show off his repertory. My repertory is large but easy, and is reserved for my cats, whom I notify of the evening curfew by whistling for them, and for the neighbors who have to endure this racket. Mrs. Stover also whistles the cats up when needed, or so she says. I've never heard her, as she is shy about it.
: : : : I would be very glad to find out if anyone else who uses this site is a whistling woman, or, for that matter, a non-whistling woman.
: : : This is the emended version, superseding all others.
: : : SS
: : Jo was the culprit in "Little Women":
: : "Jo does use such slang words!" observed Amy, with a reproving look at the long figure stretched on the rug.
: : Jo immediately sat up, put her hands in her pockets, and began to whistle.
: : "Don't, Jo. It's so boyish!"
: : "That's why I do it."
: : "I detest rude, unladylike girls!"
: : http://www.worldwideschool.org/library/books/youth/youngadult/LittleWomen/Ch ap1.html Pamela
: I was so focused on whistling women that I forgot to ask: what is a "crooning cow"? A crowing hen is, I assume, a hen that is crowing like a rooster, so is "crooning" the noise that a bull makes? Pamela
I think both I and ESC have had some experience with cows and bulls, that is, cattle or kine, so I'm going to make an effort to answer that. Yes, "crooning" is the noise made by a Scottish bull, that is, the Scottish use of the word is for the bellowing of a bull. But I have trouble with this for two reasons. One is that a discussion is likely to become wordy, and the other is that in my recollection the bellowing of an angry bull is very similar to the sound made by an angry cow. After all, they have the same vocal apparatus, altlhough the bull is usually larger, with larger lungs. Since they sometimes preserve their anger longer, a bull's bellow may be more prolonged as well as louder. But crooning is sometimes used for the vocalizations of kine generally, that is, bulls and cows.
And then there is the crooning of Bing Crosby and other popular singers who need microphones to be heard. I'm going to rely on the Oxford English Dictionary to provide definitions and examples, s.v. croon and crooning.
"[croon] Chiefly Sc.
1. intr. To utter a continued, loud, deep sound; to bellow as a bull, to roar, low; to boom as a bell. Sc. or north. dial.
1513 DOUGLAS Æneis VI. iv. 40 The ground begouth to rummys, croyn, and ring, Vndir thair feit [sub pedibus mugire solum]. 1588 [see CROONING ppl. a.]...1674-91 RAY N.C. Words 140 To Crune, mugire. 1787 BURNS Holy Fair xxvi, Now Clinkumbell, wi' rattlin tow, Begins to jow an' croon. 1813 HOGG Queen's Wake ii. Wks. 35 Even the dull cattle crooned and gazed. 1828 SOUTHEY Brough Bells Poems VI. 227 That lordly Bull of mine..How loudly to the hills he crunes, That crune to him again."
A typical translation of mugio, mugire is: to bellow , roar, low, rumble, groan. You might even say mugire = to moo.
Now the other type of crooning (not, in the end,incompatible with the first type):
"2. a. To utter a low murmuring sound; to sing (or speak) in a low murmuring tone; to hum softly. spec. to sing popular sentimental songs in a low, smooth voice, esp. into a closely-held microphone (see quot.1959 s.v. crooning below).
(The earlier quots. may have been ironical or humorous uses of sense 1.)
c1460 Towneley Myst. 116 Primus P. For to syng..I can. Sec. P. Let se how ye croyne. Can ye bark at the mone? 1578 Gude & Godlie Ballates 179 The Sisters gray befoir this day, Did crune within thair cloister. a1818 MACNEIL Poems 56 Whan, crooning quietly by himsel', He framed the lay... 1877 A. B. EDWARDS Up Nile xix. 571, I hear a mother crooning to her baby. 1920 Catal. Victor Records, Standard Songs. 'Croon, Croon, Underneat' de Moon' (Clutsam)... 1933 Punch 2 Aug. 122/1 Bing Crosby the crooner..croons to his feminine class and is crooned to in reply...."
And there is crooning:
"Hence crooning vbl. n. and ppl. a.
1588 A. HUME Hymns, Triumph of the Lord 234 (Bannatyne Club) 41 Be cruining Bulls of heigh and haughtie minde. 1828 SOUTHEY Brough Bells, That cruning of the kine...1927 Melody Maker Aug. 784/3 'Muddy Water' has a feature in a sweet crooning vocal introduction. 1929 Ibid. Dec. 1139/3 His crooning style of singing...30 Jan. 23/2 'You can't help thinking badly of any man who would degrade himself whining in that way..' he said of crooning. 1935 WODEHOUSE Blandings Castle v. 116 Everybody knows what Crooning Tenors are... They sit at the piano and gaze into a girl's eyes and sing in a voice that sounds like gas escaping from a pipe about Love and the Moonlight and You. 1959 Chambers's Encycl. XII. 570/2 In that type of vocal performance known as 'crooning' the low er range of the voice is chiefly used, and that more in the manner of conversation than of singing, though falsetto notes are often introduced. There is a noticea ble gliding or sliding from one pitch to another and the intonation is often deliberately indefinite... Characteristic also is a certain oscillation or catch in the voice as it comes to rest momentarily upon a sustained sound."
I must note that a bull uses falsetto notes when he bellows, and, omitting the conversational tone and the "oscillation or catch in the voice," you can easily see the similarity of Bing Crosby's singing to the crooning of a bull, although the bull doesn't need a microphone.
Perhaps you have to be in Scotland to distinguish the bellowing of a bull from the similar sound effects sometimes made by cows. Or perhaps the distinction lies in loudness, prolongation and emotional overtones.