Thursday, September 02, 1999

You know how to whistle, don’t you?


NY Times headline: “White House Seekers Wear Faith on Sleeve and Stump”. Stump? Did someone have a thresher accident while campaigning in Iowa?

NY mayor Benito Giuliani is currently serving as a juror in the case of a man whose genitals were scalded. So suddenly this poor schmuck, who maybe didn’t want quite this much publicity for his case, is plastered all over the NY media.

It seems the Germans covered up the fact that aspirin was discovered by a Jew. An obvious joke comes to mind, but I’d best not.

Cliff’s Notes is to do versions of the “For Dummies” books. Civilization has officially ended.

Yet another school has banned Huckleberry Finn: Mark Twain Intermediate in Houston (this is an Internet story, so take it with a grain of salt--if someone knows for a fact that this is real please say so).

From the London Times:

SPANISH schoolchildren on La Gomera in the Canary Islands are to be forced to take classes in the art of whistling.

The island’s government has decided that children will have to learn the whistling language that has been used by Gomeran shepherds for centuries. The language, which is believed to predate Spanish on the island, was developed as a way of communicating across the deep valleys that cut its mountainous terrain.

Children will be expected to learn to carry out conversations between hilltop and hilltop from a distance of up to two miles. Whistling classes will form an obligatory part of primary education and will become voluntary in secondary education.

Experts say that the Gomera silbo, or whistle, is not a language of its own but uses whistling sounds to imitate the syllables of speech. Whistlers use not just the mouth, but also their fingers and hands to vary the tones and increase the distance.

They place their fingers in their mouths to alter the shape and positioning of their tongues. Cupped hands allow the sound to travel further.

The silbo has similarities to the whistle language used by the peoples of the Atlas Mountains in North Africa.

The Gomera whistle was almost lost in the 1960s, when only a handful of shepherds still knew how to communicate with it. Some local historians have claimed that General Franco’s administrators on the island discouraged its use because they did not know what people were saying.

The silbo has since gained great popularity and the island, which has 17,000 inhabitants, has introduced an annual whistling day.

Experts admit, however, that whistling is a somewhat limited way of talking. “You can carry out conversations but there are not many things you can talk about,” Juan Evaristo, a local education director, said.

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