What does Whistling in the Dark mean?

They Might Be Giants: Whistling in the Dark Meaning

Album cover for Whistling in the Dark album cover

Song Released: 1990

Whistling in the Dark Lyrics

A woman came up to me and said
"I'd like to poison your mind
With wrong ideas that appeal to you
Though I am not unkind"
She looked at me, I looked at something
Written across her scalp
And these are the words that it faintly said
As I...

  1. anonymous
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    Jun 4th 2010 !⃝

    Whistling in the dark is an American english idiom: If someone is whistling in the dark, they believe in a positive result, even though everybody else is sure it will not happen.

  2. anonymous
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    Apr 8th 2009 !⃝

    I agree with what you have all said about accepting opinions, but I think there is another part to it. Between the verse about the woman and the one about the man the song mentions being yourself before going into the repetitions of whistling in the dark (being oblivious). I think it is trying to say that just being yourself might result in "having a wonderful time", but really you're just being oblivious to what is really important, accepting other ideas.

  3. anonymous
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    May 9th 2007 !⃝

    You see the phrase "whistling in the dark" means being oblivious. If we assume that this is true the song pretty much breaks down to "I don't want your opinions, I'd rather be oblivious".

    Just a bit of food for the thought.

  4. tiggstah
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    Apr 23rd 2007 !⃝

    I think by combining these two interpretations you get a nice one. However instead of the closing eyes and shutting ears I think that it's just saying I wish they would leave me alone to my solitude and simple life instead of trying to force their ideas and opinions on me.

    First the female tries to get you go her way by appealing to your desires and through the subtle influencing that all females love to do to you.

    A woman came up to me and said
    "I'd like to poison your mind
    With wrong ideas that appeal to you

    It's not her fault though, that's just how feminine mind works. She doesn't mean anything by it, she is just trying to fix you. however you don't want to be fixed and as you notice what you say no!, leave me alone! I just want to be left to my simple life that I know and I don't want any of your complexity.

    Though I am not unkind"
    She looked at me, I looked at something
    Written across her scalp
    And these are the words that it faintly said
    As I tried to call for help:

    There's only one thing that I know how to do well
    And I've often been told that you only can do
    What you know how to do well
    And that's be you,
    Be what you're like,
    Be like yourself,
    And so I'm having a wonderful time
    But I'd rather be whistling in the dark

    now the man is not as simple in his trying to manipulate you, let me just hit you in the head and force you to be how I want you to be. man is "kind of dumb" compaired to the woman in this.

    A man came up to me and said
    "I'd like to change your mind
    By hitting it with a rock," he said,

    but like men do all the time, "oh you don't want it, I was just kidding.

    We laughed at his little joke
    And then I happily walked away

    and then a further jab at men's small intellect with our tiny brains and our inability to accept any other ideas other than our own.

    And hit my head on the wall of the jail
    Where the two of us live today.

  5. bluemoose
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    Apr 5th 2007 !⃝

    With all due respect I think the simplistic nature of that argument seems far from the intellect with which I credit these song writers.

    I think the song is about those who don't have strong opinions on anything, but who are set in their ways and opposed to any differing, strong views or new ideas. Such people regard this as a primitive attack on themselves, and forcing new ideas on them, eg hitting them with a rock, will only make them recede deeper into themselves, put their hands over their ears and whistle in the dark- 'la la la I'm not listening and I can't see you!'

    It doesn't appear to advocate forcing opinions on such people, but at the same time it shows the non-listener to be small minded and doomed- hence the repetative ending.

  6. Andy
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    Dec 18th 2005 !⃝

    ONE interpretation:

    The song simply contrasts men and women. The first verse is about women, and how they are more deceptive in getting what they want. The verse is longer and paints a darker picture.

    The second verse is about men, and how they are much more simple in getting what they want. This verse is shorter and uses only small words.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway

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