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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 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 is an alternative in this kind of situation.

A staple subtrope of Acting Unnatural and Looking Busy.



    open/close all folders 

  • 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.
  • Haiyore! Nyarko-san 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 (almost everyone else voting for themselves). 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.

    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 
  • In a Garfield comic:
    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.
  • 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 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."
  • House whistles in the House/Blackaddercrossover 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 
  • 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—chickens, after all, 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.

    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.
  • One of the earliest examples is in the movie M, where the child killer whistles the tune "In the Hall of the Mountain King" right before he tracks down one of his victims. He pauses and breaks it up at odd parts in the song, giving a sense of wrongness. This tic ends up being how the other criminals identify him and eventually hunt him down.
  • 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.

    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. It's hilarious.
  • 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*."

    Web Animation 
  • Wash pulls this in season 10 of Red vs. Blue.
    Donut: ...and I got shot!
    Wash: [whistles nonchalantly]

    Web Comics 

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • The snowball example is from Spongebob Squarepants, where Spongebob whistles and it actually fools Patrick (though Patrick isn't too bright anyway).
  • The traumatic instance: The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. "I'm thirty-eight years old!"
  • Futurama:
    • Parodied when Leela has murdered 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 another episode:
      Bender: Oh no. Not the innocent whistling!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the South Park episode "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 an episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes, the entire town whistles after Lucius demands to know who let Beezy borrow their cell phones.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • In Clone High, Gandhi, as he leaves the scene from having released the savage genetically engineered monster Geshy into the wild, upon seeing the destruction it causes.
  • The Simpsons: Homer also does in the episode "Summer of 4 ft. 2," when he, in an attempt to light a certain illegal firecracker with the stove, accidentally burned off a significant amount of the fuse, before shoving it in the sink (He was going to shove it in the refrigerator, but he stopped when he realized the beer was also in there). As a result of the obvious damage from the explosion, sewage was also coming up and overflowing the sink and onto the floor, to which Homer then walked away from the sewage with his hands behind his back, whistling. Marge is then seen cleaning up the mess in the background while Bart is complaining about Lisa's popularity.
  • In the Goof Troop episode "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."
  • 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.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar: When Rico blew up one of Dr. Blowhole's gadgets, he walked away whistling.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Not So Innocent Whistling


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