Friday, May 14, 2010

"Whistling Past The Graveyard"

Here's a great old expression I haven't heard for a long time, with several different slants to its meaning.  One meaning is trying to remain cheerful in difficult or dire circumstances.  Another interpretation is to proceed (cheerful or not) with the task at hand while ignoring an obvious hazard.  Alternately it can mean to enter a situation with little or no understanding of the possible consequences.  Lastly, it can imply being cheerful or optimistic in a situation that doesn't warrant cheer or optimism.  Most interesting of all is its Etymology:  It is a great temptation to try to cheer oneself up by whistling or singing in a dark and lonely place...The notion that one should whistle in difficult circumstances to show that one is not concerned or frightened can be found in Robert Blair's The Grave (1742): "The Schoolboy...Whistling aloud to bear his Courage up".  From the Dictionary of Cliches by James Rogers (Wings Books, Originally New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985).