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Meaning of "whistle down the wind" Options
jackotis
Posted: Sunday, April 12, 2009 9:16:00 PM
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In Chapter XII of Tom Sawyer, Twain wrote:

"Becky Thatcher had stopped coming to school. Tom had struggled with his pride a few days, and tried to 'whistle her down the wind,' but failed."

I've heard the phrase often, but I don't know what it means.

Can anyone help? Thanks.

-jomo
www.jackotis.com
eva.amaral
Posted: Sunday, April 12, 2009 9:34:17 PM
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It means to defame somebody. The reputation of the person may be blown upon. :)
catskincatskin
Posted: Sunday, April 12, 2009 10:29:37 PM
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Huh. I always thought that it meant to forget someone or something, to stop caring about a person or matter, or to move on with a sense of resignation. I know the phrase best through the Tom Waits song, with the refrain "I might as well be whistling down the wind."

TB
Posted: Sunday, April 12, 2009 11:04:01 PM
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Here is another definition:

Whistle down the wind

Meaning: To talk purposelessly.

Example: The new Toastmaster member started to whistle down the wind as she had not yet mastered the basics of public speaking.

Origin: This expression relates to hawking where there is little point in releasing the bird downwind.
Angus
Posted: Monday, April 13, 2009 2:39:49 AM
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Nothing arcane here. It may be comforting to whistle a happy tune in the face of self doubt, but doing so will not render a biting wind inconsequential.
jackotis
Posted: Monday, April 13, 2009 9:17:47 AM
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Your definition sounds good, Angus, except for the pronoun:
"whistle her down the wind..."

Catskin2's works best in context.

Thanks for all of your replies.

-jomo
www.jackotis.com
begich
Posted: Monday, April 13, 2009 12:14:25 PM
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I believe that the phrase: "whistle down the wind" is correctly used when
the "whistler" is trying to act or think as though someone or something does
not exist. Thus Tom was trying to act as though Becky didn't exist and therefore didn't matter; also, the speaker with no skills was acting as though the audience didn't exist and was "whistling down the wind" to forestall her anxiety.
Omar HABDOU
Posted: Monday, April 13, 2009 12:40:58 PM
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A person whistles down the wind if he talks nonsense or when his speech lacks strentgh to persuade ao even to be understood
Spahkee
Posted: Monday, April 13, 2009 6:18:20 PM
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"whistle her down the wind"

A most wonderful phrase, as it has allowed me to stop and savor each word.

"Whistle"

A good friend of mine will hum when he is displeased, most assuredly, with good reason. This action indicates a lack of ability to, or a desire to, express what is really going on with him. His humming seems akin to Tom Sawyer's whistling.

"Her"

In the aforementioned sentence, Tom is clearly at odds with himself over Becky, and thusly begins to whistle, as if to express what's going on, in a most inarticulate manner.

"Down the wind"

I'm sure most of us have known or heard of someone sending aloft the earthly remains of a deceased, loved one. This act seems to me to be one that symbolically facilitates the returning from whence one came. In the sense of the sentence, it might suggest a 'letting go'.

Having said all that; I'd say it means, He tried to let go of her.


Thank you for your original posting.
peterhewett
Posted: Thursday, July 23, 2009 11:11:14 AM
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Spahkee said
"whistle her down the wind"

A most wonderful phrase, as it has allowed me to stop and savor each word.

"Whistle"

A good friend of mine will hum when he is displeased, most assuredly, with good reason. This action indicates a lack of ability to, or a desire to, express what is really going on with him. His humming seems akin to Tom Sawyer's whistling.

"Her"

In the aforementioned sentence, Tom is clearly at odds with himself over Becky, and thusly begins to whistle, as if to express what's going on, in a most inarticulate manner.

Spakhee wrote:

"Down the wind"

I'm sure most of us have known or heard of someone sending aloft the earthly remains of a deceased, loved one. This act seems to me to be one that symbolically facilitates the returning from whence one came. In the sense of the sentence, it might suggest a 'letting go'.

Having said all that; I'd say it means, He tried to let go of her.


Peter said: I looked up the context, http://www.cleavebooks.co.uk/grol/twain/tom12.htm, and I think your explanation is spot on


markheindr
Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 3:18:22 PM
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"If I do prove her haggard,
Though that her tresses were my dear heartstrings,
I'd whistle her off and let her down the wind ..."
OTHELLO, Act III, Scene iii

In this usage from 400 years ago, Othello clearly
means "to release, abandon, forget, pretend the
other does not exist".
Shakespeare may have coined the phrase.

But it seems to come from the world of sailing.
There were no semaphores in Shakespeare's time.
When ships sailed together in convoy, the sailors
communicated (as they did on board, when up in the
rigging) by whistling. To "whistle off" is to
signal an accompanying ship to move away; to "let
her down the wind" is to let the wind take a ship
-- in this case, taking the former companion swiftly
away, out of sight.

And an alternate (and less edited) text of the play
has "jesses" for "tresses."
This takes us to the world of falconry, the jess
being the leather thong that attaches the falcon
to the hunter's wrist.
Interestingly, the action and meaning are similar
to those in sailing: The falconer, untying the jess,
"whistles" the falcon "off," and "let[s] her down
the wind" to seek her prey.

It's hard to know whether falconry gave the term
to sailing, or vice versa. But they are both such
ancient arts that the phrase likely dates back far
beyond Shakespeare.



IMcRout
Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 3:58:40 PM
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Whistle Whistle Whistle
tootsie
Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2014 7:46:13 AM

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IMcRout wrote:
Whistle Whistle Whistle





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