Whistles – Penny- Tin- or what do you call them?

penny-whistle-my-music-community-net Whistles how should we call them?

I need some input. How do you call your Whistles?
I call mine Peter, Herbert, Mary…. no just kidding.
But you know, there are several names like: Whistle, Penny Whistle, Tin Whistle, Irish Whistle, Feadog Stain, Flageolet , Pocket Whistle, Blechfloete (german for tin whistle), High Whistle, Soprano Whistle, Low Whistle, … (if you  know other Words for this Instruments,  please let me know).

So what word do you use? or better what word should we use here in our Community?
According to Google most People use for “Penny Whistle” and “Tin Whistle”, both same much. Wikipedia uses “Tin Whistle” even if i search for “Penny Whistle

What about me?
In English i like to say Whistle, but doesn’t that normally mean that kind of whistles which aren’t instruments and just for to make one tone? See Wikipedia about Whistles

Because I saw Whistles like ours the first time in Ireland and was told there that they are Irish Instruments (which was hard to believe because most looked like toys with those colourful heads and being sold for little money), I did liked to call them Irish Whistles.
But i do know now that even if they are very common in Ireland and Irish Music, they are not (only) Irish Whistles.
One maybe could call a Waltons an irish Whistle because it’s made in Ireland maybe but all Whistles?
Well in Germany its a good hint if you talk to someone who don’t know what is a Penny Whistle or a Tin Whistle, just say “Irish Whistle” or better mention “Titanic” and “Flöte” (Floete) or “Blechfloete” (Blech is german for Tin) and you are understood.

Here we go, lets take a little step into German language.
We Germans call this instrument “Floete“.

But also a Recorder is a Floete in Germany and a Flute too and a Fife as well … they are all “Floeten” for us.
We do have a word similar to “Fife”, its “Pfeife” but that means “Whistle” like that ones in that linked to Wikipedia Article above. So not like Penny Whistle or Tin Whistle.
Also “pfeifen” in German means “to whistle” (by mouth).
Why i am telling you all this, well maybe its interesting for you but also i think its easier as we do it, its allö so nicely in order.
We don’t have “Woodwind instruments” we have “blow-instruments” never mind if they are out of wood or brass or whatever, and than we seperate them in what they are made from like,”Brass-blow Instrument” .
In the Family of Blow-Instruments we have “Floeten” and all are Instruments and for the none Instruments as whistles like in the linked wikipedia article above, we have the word “Pfeife” as we have “pfeifen” for whistling by mouth… can you see the order? It seems logical for me. So a “Whistle” is a “Pfeife” and a “Tin Whistle” is a “Blechfloete”. A “Penny Whistle” … Oh my God, we are loosing the track as well in german. Our Instrument is called just “Floete” and sometimes we add what its made of or such thing. And Wikipedia also use “Tin Whistle” in german. Where is the right Order?

In English, for me, its all even more mixed up. Maybe its just me or its the History of the Instrument or whatever but:
English is the international language and its the language we speak here in our forum.
And i would even say that the most Whistle players are English natural speaking people. As there are the Irish, Scottish and British in first place because there the Whistles are Instruments regular used in their Folk music, isn’t it?

So i think somehow our Instruments, the Whistles (Tin, Penny, whatever) are “English” or better “English language related”

First whistles where made many years before our kind of Penny or Tin Whistles and maybe their names should have an influence.
But what were their Names?
And were they English too? I once did read something about the oldest “Floete” (Whistle) in the world and it was found in Ulm, Germany, probably built and played 40.000 Years ago. (Its an intersting Story, specialy where it was found and why it was not rotten, but this is not part of this Articel, maybe i will write another one about it.)

But lets come back to the regular Words/Names for our Instruments.
As far as i know, most common is either Penny Whistle, Tin Whistle or just Whistle.
Good would be “High Whistle” and “Low Whistle“, Nice is “Soprano Whistle
What do i prefere, what should we use?

Whistle:
Is just Whistle used in English spoken Areas for the Instrument or only for the little thing with a Pea in it?
I do like it pure, so just “Whistle” that sounds good to me, but would people know that i am talking about the Inbstrument?

Penny Whistle:
I know some people don’t like the word Penny Whistle because the History of this Name:
a. because they where sold for a penny in earlier days
b. whistle street musicians where given Pennies for their music in earlier days
I don’t care if the Name Penny Whistle come from this and I guess its either both or maybe none of both. 😉
But people say there are Whistles on today’s markets which cost much more as a penny and their musicians are not playing on the street collecting Pennies for their music. So they dont like “Penny Whistle”. How many People are this? Should we mind them?
I do like that the Name “Penny Whistle” has this describing History (even if with 2 possibilities)

Tin Whistle:
I don’t like to call a brass, or wood or whatever made of whistle a Tin Whistle if its not made out of Tin. So i am used to say “Tin Whistle” and i do like the Words but not as a name for all my Whistles, cause most arent made out of Tin, even if i like the Tin ones.
I think Wikipedia should not prefere Tin Whistle. (just search for “Penny Whistle” and it leads to “Tin Whistle”)
Tin Whistle sounds nice but it discribe not all of our Whistles if you ask me

High Whistle and Low Whistles
High Whistles make it easy for us, or better people took the easy way when they did name Low Whistles. I like that. So maybe we should call the “other ones” High Whistles or Soprano Whistles?

Soprano Whistle:
I really like Soprano Whistle it seems so sophisticated. So i may use “Soprano Whistle” more times .

So what will i use? Just Whistle or Penny Whistle i guess and sometimes “Soprano Whistle” when i want to impress someone 😉 It isnt easy ti choose a Word/Name for Wistles.

This are my thoughts about Whistles.
What do you call your Whistles? What do you think they should be called?

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2 thoughts on “Whistles – Penny- Tin- or what do you call them?

  1. I too am vexed by what to call this instrument. “Whistle” is far too broad; pbs plastic is ridiculous to call tin; “Irish” ? Apparently they were first made in England & my main whistle is made in Australia!
    I teach this instrument in schools & have to explain all of this to students-it seems to me a uniform name would be far less confusing. I tend to like flageolet, but this term really belongs to a medieval family of instruments, & no one has really heard this word. So I end up calling it a whistle-back to square one! Aarggh!

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this Craig.
    I agree a uniform name would help to make this less confusing. On the other side, isnt it interesting that these little Instruments have so many names? And anyway it is something worth to tell storys about.

    By the way, i still like “Penny Whistle” but use “Whistle” whyever.

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