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Not-So-Innocent Whistle

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"You're a secret agent man
Who's after the secret plan
How do you act so they don't know you're a spy?
(whistle) Normally (whistles again)
Normal... L-Y!"
Tom Lehrer, "L-Y"

In media of all types, especially comics and cartoons, the "innocent" whistle is a main staple, often played for humor. Alice, feeling mischievous, decides to, say, throw a snowball at Bob. Bob is knocked off his feet. He pulls himself up and spins around to see no one around in the area but Alice, who puts her hands behind her back and lifts herself up onto her tiptoes and back down several times while whistling. Sometimes Alice would be also be twiddling her thumbs, point her eyes upward/away, putting her hands in her pockets, or a halo would appear above her head — or any combination thereof, in an attempt to look as innocuous and inattentive as possible, though whether or not it works varies case-by-case. In comics, usually only a single note symbolizing the whistle is written. The Not-So-Innocent Whistle can also happen after suppressing a traumatic moment, or any other instance of hiding something.

Common ways the trope is applied:

A Dead Horse Trope, given the large number of Genre Savvy characters who point out that whistling for no apparent reason is a surefire method to give yourself away. Not to be confused with the wolf whistle. An "Oh, Crap!" Smile or an Eyelash Flutter are alternatives in this kind of situation.

A staple subtrope of Acting Unnatural and Looking Busy.


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  • A commercial for a Pokémon toy showed a kid whistling after using the product (a Pokéball on a string that can snap closed) to snatch a Pokemon mini figurine from a friend.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Ginyu, trapped in a frog's body, tries to steal the Dragon Balls. When Gohan spots him, he leans up and against the ball and whistles, forgetting that it's not something a frog usually does.
  • In Assassination Classroom, when Kaede demands to know who it was that gave her the code name "Forever Flat", Takuya walks away whistling.
  • Nyaruko: Crawling with Love! gently poked this trope by having Nyarko attempt it without actually knowing how to whistle, which results in Not-So-Innocent Blowing Noises instead. The gag was repeated a few episodes later by Cuuko.
  • One Piece: Sometimes used by Luffy who has this and a not-so-innocent face due to his cannot-tell-a-lie nature.
  • My Hero Academia: When Class 1-A decides to vote to choose the Class Representative, Midoriya sees to his shock that he got three votes (only three out of twenty students didn't vote for themselves, and Midoriya was not one of the three). Bakugo explodes in rage and yells who the hell voted for Midoriya, while Uraraka whistles and muses that it'd be scary if Bakugo found out she did.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Fujiwara tries to whistle after giving Shirogane an incredibly obvious bribe to increase the funds for the Tabletop Gaming Club in episode 7. Unfortunately, she doesn't know how to whistle and it just makes her even more obvious.
  • KonoSuba: When Verdia returns to Axis, furious that someone is still pelting his castle with Explosion spells, Kazuma tries to insist that they're upholding the promise, only for Megumin to admit that she hasn't been able to resist. Kazuma is understandably freaked out by this, only to remember that Megumin can't move after using her Once-per-day Explosion spell, and realizes that someone had to be carrying her back. Cue Aqua trying to do this trope, only to be unable to even whistle properly.

    Asian Animation 
  • In episode 14 of Happy Heroes, Smart S.'s magnetism is made way too powerful due to a super battery being installed in him. This causes him to accidentally attract Planet Gray, much to the delight of Big M. who immediately tries to pinch himself to see if he's dreaming. He then realizes he pinched Little M. by accident and whistles as if nothing happened.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 41, Weslie, who is captured along with the other goats, notices and grabs Wolffy's pranks spray. When Wolffy looks to see what Weslie is up to, he and Sparky whistle as if nothing just happened.

    Comic Books 
  • In Asterix, Obelix once whistles to fool a Roman legionary. That guy isn't fooled, but tells Obelix everything he needs to know. Obelix still doesn't get it.
  • Mortadelo will often whistle when others (namely Filemón or El Súper) suspect him of doing something like stealing their wallet.

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield:
    • In the December 22, 1980 strip:
      Jon: Garfield, would you happen to know what happened to the lasagna I fixed for dinner?
      Garfield: (whistles innocently)
      Jon: I didn't know you could whistle.
      Garfield: I'd tap-dance too if it would change the subject.
    • Odie does it in the May 1, 2022 strip after pulling Garfield by the tail as Garfield is starting to run to Jon for dinner, causing Garfield to fall to the ground, as payback for Garfield telling him to go away for not being cool enough to stand next to him.
  • A run of Peanuts comics had Charlie Brown's baseball team actually win a game, only to have the victory taken away due to a gambling scandal (Rerun van Pelt bet a nickel the team would win). The story ended with Charlie Brown saying the only thing he didn't understand was who had bet against the team, and Snoopy whistling.
  • The titular character of Liō gave himself away to his dad after creating inclement weather to cancel school. Lio was whistling during a TV report of the "freak ice storm".

     Fan Works 
  • In A Chance for a New Dawn, when Flayn is told she doesn't have to pay Bernadetta's butler a large sum of gold for his hospitality, Bernadetta catches her mischievous companion Monica whistling nonchalantly, accusing her of giving Flayn the idea.
  • In Child of the Storm, accounts of Doctor Strange's duel with Grindelwald, which lasted for days, leveled Berlin, and stripped the latter of his demon super-charging, reducing him from Physical God to his normal Person of Mass Destruction levels, leaving him for Dumbledore to face, all culminate with his having 'walked away whistling'. At first, this is believed to simply be a piece of embellishment, to boost Strange's reputation... then it's established that he really did walk away whistling. Considering his personality, this is less than surprising.
    • Wanda lists a number of Strange's - her former teacher - mildly irritating traits; specifically, that he's a fount of 'knowledge, enigmatic and irritating pronouncements, and pop-culture references.' Harry Dresden, her apprentice and boyfriend, who has been justly accused of all three, starts whistling innocently in the background. Wanda notices this and adds, "don't worry, it's charming on you, darling."
  • In Chapter 6 of Cold Blood, Peeves the poltergeist hastily hides something behind his back and whistles as he floats away. Professor McGonagall squints suspiciously at him.
  • House whistles in the House/Blackadder crossover fic "Insurance and Insolence" when Blackadder starts on a tirade about hospital deans being crusty old men and changing his tune in mid-sentence in order to flirt with Cuddy.

    Films — Animation 
  • Hercules: During the scene where Herc meets Meg:
    Meg: Well, thanks for everything, Herc. It's been a real slice.
    Hercules: Wait! Um, can we give you a ride?
    [Pegasus flies up into a tree, whickering with irriation]
    Meg: I don't think your pinto likes me very much.
    Hercules: Pegasus??? Oh, no, don't be silly! He'd be more than happy to — [gets beaned on the head by an apple] Ow.
    Pegasus: [whistles]
  • In Chicken Run, the chickens are caught in the middle of spying on the farm's owners through binoculars. After a Beat or two of silence, every single chicken starts whistling in unison and looking innocent, with their hands holding the binoculars behind their backs. They get away with it because Mr. Tweedy convinces himself that it's all in his head—after all, real chickens do not plot.
  • In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, six of the dwarfs whistle innocently while they surround Grumpy before they ambush and drag him into the washtub.
  • In A Goofy Movie, Goofy plays along with a mime hoisting something into the air by cutting the "rope" the mime is pulling. The mime is then crushed by a piano out of nowhere, prompting Goofy and his son Max to nervously walk away while whistling.
  • In the "Pecos Bill" segment of Melody Time, Bill's horse Widowmaker whistles after stepping on his lasso to stop him from saving Sluefoot Sue.
  • The LEGO Batman Movie: The Kraken accidentally destroys the Tower of Sauron...and then sidles off, desperately trying to look inconspicuous, whistling to himself all the way.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Hancock has a strange example. Ray's wife whistles as she goes to get eggs out of the fridge that she tossed through her house wall along with the titular superhero.
  • The action film Murder at 1600 tries to play this trope straight, with a detective whistling while trying to infiltrate the White House disguised as a janitor. It fails, and he ends up captured.
  • Harry and Marv whistle in Home Alone when Kevin suspiciously looks back over his shoulder as they tail him in their van. Kevin gets even more suspicious.
  • In Steve Oedekerk's short parody film Bat Thumb, the villain No-Face, asked whether anyone ever had the slightest compassion for him, mentions a certain high school sweetheart of his named Vicky Nail, and his plans to get back together with her. Then he vows "...and I will kill any man who has so much as looked at her with lust in his heart!" In response, Bat Thumb (who has done a good deal more with her than just look, and also heard her say she's done plenty more herself) quietly whistles to himself from the Death Trap.
  • In Kill Bill, an absolutely epic example takes place while Elle, infiltrating a hospital in a nurse outfit, goes to administer a lethal injection to the comatose Bride, whistling awesomely all the while. It's one of the most frightening examples of this to date.
  • Peter in Double Trouble does this twice: he starts whistling innocently after he and his brother are unable to chase after the bad guy due to him removing the steering wheel from his brother's car (he was handcuffed to it), and whistles again later when he throws away a small, seemingly harmless explosive, and it blows up a car.
  • In Ant-Man, this is invoked by Luis, who asks if he can whistle when he has to infiltrate Pym Technologies as a security guard. Despite being told not to, he does it anyway. It ends up not mattering in the slightest.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Scrubs - Ted digs up a law requiring separate changing rooms for men and women, which means Kelso loses his new giant office. When Kelso demands to know who's responsible, Ted starts sort of blowing air through his mouth. Kelso asks what he's doing, to which Ted replies "I'm whistling so you won't think it was me..."
  • In Police Squad!, a thug disguises himself as "press" to bring a large number of weapons into a victim's room and kill him. The guard doesn't notice. Whistling "Whistle While You Work" on the way out probably helped.
  • Supernatural - Benny whistles "In the Hall of the Mountain King" when he fights in Purgatory.
  • Breaking Bad - Jesse is distraught over a TV news broadcast about the disappearance of Drew Sharp, the boy that Todd killed. Walt tells him that he feels guilt about the incident as well, but after the conversation is over, he starts to whistle lightheartedly, implying that he doesn't feel any remorse over the murder.
  • As quoted above, appears in a song that Tom Lehrer wrote for The Electric Company (1971). The accompanying animation has the protagonist exposed by a flashlight beam, standing in a darkened room next to a large safe, wearing a fedora and a trenchcoat. He starts whistling and playing with a yo-yo.
  • Happens in a clip on World's Dumbest... after a stunt gone wrong, and is, naturally, Lampshaded by one of the commentators.
  • At the start of the fourth season of Saved by the Bell: The New Class, a teacher reports to Mr. Belding that she bumped into his car while trying to park at her own spot. Once she leaves, Mr. Belding demands to know who assigned her spot next to his. He's speaking to no one in particular, but Screech, upon hearing Mr. Belding's demand, whistles to himself while looking sheepishly away, which, due to his close proximity to Mr. Belding, serves only to tip himself off.
  • Doctor Who: In the episode The Rings of Akhaten, Clara is trying to sneak Merry back to the TARDIS. Along the way, Merry ducks to hide behind an obstacle while Clara leans on it and waves at a passerby while whistling.
  • Rumpole of the Bailey: Rumpole puts on one of these in "Rumpole and the Last Resort" when he tries to nonchalantly walk out of his bank after bouncing a cheque. It fools nobody, and his Inner Monologue notes he ought to have just made a dash for it instead as he is caught by the manager.
  • NewsRadio: In "Xmas Story," Bill complains that the Christmas gift for Mr. James he contributed to was nothing more than a shirt in a frame. Mr. James is visibly underwhelmed when he receives the gift, leading Bill to look away and whistle as if to say he didn't have a hand in it.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Older Than Feudalism: The Greek god Hermes is described as doing exactly this in a myth about his birth. Apollo accuses him of stealing his cattle, and the incorrigible little scamp whistles innocently and gets shifty eyed.

    Video Games 
  • In Epic Mickey, Oswald The Lucky Rabbit will shoot faces at Mickey when his back his turned. Turn around to face him again and he'll start whistling innocently.
  • Sometimes, the police will appear in Urban Champion, which causes the fighters to run back to the sides of the stage, thus restarting the fight. Can be helpful if you were about to lose, but annoying if you just needed that one more punch to send that green-haired punk down the drain.
  • In Penny Arcade Adventures episode 2, the party rigs a monorail to crash into a giant metal orange so they can climb it to fight the final boss. Unfortunately, they realize too late that the bus was full of passengers, leading them to walk away whistling.
  • In Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy Jak laughs at Daxter when the Yellow Sage refers to duo as "a boy and his muskrat". He quickly switches to an innocent whistle when Daxter looks up at him in accusation.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, this is how you track members of La Résistance through Prague. It straddles the line between silly and eerie.
  • In Super Street Fighter IV, one of Cody's winning poses has him looking around, the whistling and walking his way out of the scene.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
    • In Chapter 4, when everyone receives their field study assignments, Rean sees that he's been assigned to a group with Laura and Fie, who are currently conflicting, and suggests to Instructor Sara that he's being used again. Sara's only response is this.
    Rean: ...That innocent whistling isn't fooling anyone.
    • As Class VII is discussing what everyone is doing for the school festival, Jusis says that the horse-riding club is planning an event and although there's supposed to be no gambling, he's sure their "senior colleague" will find a way. At this, Crow gives one of these, and the text actually reads "*innocent whistle*."
  • One skit in Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny has Zed questioning Overlord Ivar about his involvement in the God of Destruction research project, and Ivar decides to play (really) dumb:
    Ivar: Well... Who can say...? Whistle... Whistle...
    Zed: You're not even actually whistling! You're just SAYING it!
  • In Darkest Dungeon, a hero with Kleptomania has a decent chance of saying "*whistle*" when you open a chest. If you see this, it means he/she is about to swipe everything in the chest, preventing you from collecting any of it.
  • Invoked in Wii Sports tennis: when a match ends, music notes will come out from the winning players' heads to suggest them innocently whistling.

    Web Animation 
  • gen:LOCK: Robotic adjutant ABLE starts delivering a message to the tune of Modern Major General. Dr. Weller, who had threatened to reprogram him to sing only in Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics earlier that episode, casually strolls off while whistling the same tune.
  • Wash pulls this in season 10 of Red vs. Blue.
    Donut: ...and I got shot!
    Wash: [whistles nonchalantly]

    Web Comics 

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Clone High: In "A Shot in the D'arc" Gandhi releases Geshy, the monstrous mascot of Clone High's rival Genetically Engineered Students High, into the wild, only for Geshy to promptly go on a rampage. Gandhi proceeds to hastily leave while whistling nonchalantly.
  • On the final episode of Cyber Six, José watches Von Reichter's computer screen, and clearly sees the password to enter a system. Von Reichter catches José, who whistles quickly. Von Reichter quickly looks away, and José stops.
  • Used in the Danny Phantom episode "Girls' Night Out." A ghost attacks Danny and his sleeping father while they are on a boat. Danny beats the ghost but, in the process, gets water everywhere. His father wakes up soaking wet to discover Danny whistling innocently.
  • Earthworm Jim: Parodied in "Upholstered Peril", where the living fibers in a cursed couch whistle nonchalantly when trying to "act natural".
  • In a Fairly OddParents episode, Mama Cosma manipulates a game show that will decide whether or not Cosmo will get to stay home with Timmy or not. Ultimately, only one person votes for Cosmo to "go home with his mama". Wanda didn't. It was Cosmo; he thought the button to vote him home would send him home to Earth.
    Timmy: I can't believe after all those tear-jerking, heart-wrenching moments you still voted to take Cosmo away!
    Mama Cosma: Actually, after seeing how Cosmo tortured Wanda I actually voted to let him stay with you.
    Timmy: Then who was the person who voted Cosmo home?
    Wanda: (whistling) ...What? I didn't do it! I'm just practicing my whistling!
  • Franklin tries this in "Franklin's Crystal" from Franklin when he cheats the spin to determine whether he or Beaver will get to have custody of the crystal they found together first. Beaver isn't fooled for one second.
  • Futurama:
    • Parodied in "Anthology of Interest", when during Leela's fantasy about being more impulsive she ends up murdering the Professor:
      Leela: (talking to herself) OK, just stay calm and try to act nonchalant.
      (Leela whistles innocently)
      Zoidberg: Alright, so you're nonchalant. Quit rubbing our noses in it!
    • And almost mentioned by name in "Proposition Infinity," when Farnsworth whistles as to pretend he didn't invite the Wongs and the Robot Priest over to punish Amy and Bender.
      Bender: Uh-oh, not the innocent whistling!
  • Goof Troop: In "Cabana Fever", PJ whistles when Peg sees that he accidentally put Pistol in the trunk with all the luggage. The whistling really neither helps nor hurts his case, since he does it after Pistol tells on him, or rather, "someone whose initials are P.J."
  • In an episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes, the entire town whistles after Lucius demands to know who let Beezy borrow their cell phones.
  • Several times on Kaeloo when Stumpy screws something up or does something he wasn't supposed to, he'll look away and start whistling. Not that the person he's trying to fool will fall for this.
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: One episode features the "traumatic" version; after the "kid" who's been following Flapjack around all day and laughing at him reveals "I'm thirty-eight years old!", a mortified Flapjack awkwardly walks away whistling.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the episode "Apple Family Reunion", Big Mac steals an apple fritter when thinks no-one is looking. When Applejack finds out, he whistles nonchalantly, though Applejack obviously knows he did it.
    • Rainbow Dash gets an earlier one when helping Applejack fill several buckets with water from a rain cloud. After finishing, said rain cloud zaps Applejack with Rainbow turning away and demonstrating her whistling skills.
  • Used in the story "It's a Bird, It's a Plane... It's an Elephant?" on PB&J Otter. When Flick is making fun of the others for believing in dragons and flying elephants, Scootch imitates him and then Flick gives him a dirty look once he realizes what he's doing. Scootch then gives a not so innocent whistle.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar: When Rico blew up one of Dr. Blowhole's gadgets, he walked away whistling.
  • In the Ready Jet Go! episode "Detective Mindy", Mr. Peterson finds his wife's sunglasses, only for them to be broken. He almost goes to the mall to get another pair to replace them (even though he doesn't like shopping), but Sunspot gives Celery's sunglasses to Mr. Peterson instead. Seconds later, Celery asks if anyone has seen her sunglasses, and Sunspot starts whistling.
  • The Simpsons: In the episode "Summer of 4 ft. 2," Homer, in an attempt to light an illegal firecracker with the stove, accidentally burns off a significant amount of the fuse before shoving it in the sink. As a result, sewage overflows the sink and leaks onto the floor, to which Homer then walks away from the mess with his hands behind his back, whistling.
  • South Park:
    • "Red-Hot Catholic Love", the parents of South Park talk about the recent trend of priests molesting young boys. When Priest Maxi walks by, all of them whistle innocently, much to his confusion.
    • In "Worldwide Recorder Concert", the boys try to get back a a group of New York kids by changing their sheet music to one with the "brown noise" at the end. Unfortunately, the other groups of students were also tricked into playing the brown noise and it caused the entire human population to collectively crap their pants. The news later does a report on this, wondering what could be the cause. One cue, Stan, Kyle and Eric whistle while walking past the camera.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "Scaredy Pants", after the Flying Dutchman says how much he detests people who dress like him on Halloween and mock his name, Squidward quickly removes his beard and hat and whistles nonchalantly.
    • In "Snowball Effect", SpongeBob whistles innocently after hitting Patrick with a snowball, and it actually fools Patrick (though Patrick isn't too bright anyway).
  • Total Drama:
    • The Killer Bass have to get a foldable bench in place timely for DJ to land on safely in "X-Treme Torture". They get the job done and all is well until the bench folds up on its own and traps DJ beneath its pillows. Rather than help him, the Killer Bass walk away from the gaffe whistling as if they've go nothing to do with it.
    • Chris reads out the votes during the elimination ceremony in "African Lying Safari". Sierra has one vote against her. She knows Cody has been consistently voting against her, so it's no question he's behind it this time to. She glares at him while he whistles fake-innocently.
    • In "Ice Ice Baby", Scott sabotages his own team by re-angling B's ice mirror to shine on an ice block, which reflects the solar beam back to the fort of the Toxic Rats. Scott proceeds to blame B for the defeat and even though B knows Scott had something to do with it, he can only glare daggers at him. Scott taunts him by whistling in mock innocence.
    • In "Grand Chef Auto", Chef makes the campers believe that Chris added Mount Chrismore mid-challenge as the final landmark to be graffitied. It is his way to get back at Chris for endangering his collection of go-karts. Chris is confused and horrified to learn that Mount Chrismore is about to be vandalized. Chef just whistles as if he's innocent and he backs up Chris's assumption that it's Duncan's meddling.
    • Chris warns the campers for the flying mutant fire-breathing mountain goats in "Up, Up, and Away in My Pitiful Balloon", because they're very aggressive as of late. Feigning ignorance, Chef whistles as he recalls that the eggs to be used in the competition were stolen from the mountain goats by him.
    • During the mutant egg hunt in "No Egg-spects the Spanish Opposition", the Heroic Hamsters collect an egg from Larry, Chris's mutant plant pet. Most of the babies that come out look like young versions of Larry, but one has a head that looks like Chris's. Everyone is unsettled by the implication that Chris is its sire, which Chris doesn't abate with his not-so-innocent whistling.
    • In "Pahk'd With Talent", Chris decides the order of the camper-created challenges by throwing darts at the campers' photos as they're being held up by interns, all the while wearing a blindfold. Predictably, one of the darts injures an intern, prompting Chris to turn around, whistle, and walk away.
  • WordGirl uses this once, when Becky's dad attempts to pay the obviously fake "babysitter." He tosses it some money and, when it remains inanimate, looks guilty, puts his hand in his pockets, and walks away whistling.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Not So Innocent Whistling


Jaune Drowning

When Jaune slips and falls in the pool, the hydrophobic Neptune (covering Sun's lifeguard duties) does his damndest to not take any notice, despite Jaune's constant flailing, splashing and yelling. Despite fighting to stay above water, he manages to keep this up for several seconds before sinking below the surface for good.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / HollywoodDrowning

Media sources: