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Whistle UP a wind

Posted by ESC on June 08, 2000

In Reply to: Whistle down the wind posted by James Briggs on June 07, 2000

: : I realise "Whistle down the wind" is the title of a book and subsequent Lloyd-Webber musical but I was wondering if that was the source of its origination and what it really means!I'm interested in using it as a song lyric because I love the way it sounds but it would help if I knew what I was writing about!!Can anyone help? Thanks

: To whistle down the wind is to talk purposelessly; to abandon. This relates to hawking where there is little point in releasing the bird downwind.

I was browsing in the library and found this. After I typed it, I realized this is a slightly different phrase. But it's all grist for the mill.

"TO WHISTLE UP A WIND - To entertain false hopes, such as in trying to borrow money for a spree or run ashore. From the sailors' superstition that a wind could be raised by whistling for it; the meaning has long since been reversed, so that 'whistling up a wind' will produce nothing: 'If he thinks that I am going to take him back after what he has done to me, he is whistling up the wind.'

Whistling on board ship is still abhorred by many sailors. One of the reasons for this is that whistling could be confused with the calls of the bosun's pipes. The only exceptions to the rule were the cook and his assistant; they were encouraged to whistle (but not too loudly) because when they were doing so the crew could be fairly sure that their provisions weren't being surreptitiously eaten in the galley.

It is worth noting that sailors, when endeavouring to whistle up a wind, always faced in the direction from which they wished it to come. When they saw a 'catspaw,' or ruffle of wind on the surface of the sea, they would rub the ship's backstay (as though fondling a cat) and whistle all the more to induce the wind to come to the ship." From "Ship to Shore" by Peter D. Jeans (ABC-CLIO Inc., Santa Barbara, Cal., 1993).