This blog is dedicated to the sublime instruments called nose flutes and which produce the most divine sound ever. We have chosen to discard all the native models from S. Pacific and Asia, for they need fingering to be played. We'll concentrate on "buccal cavity driven" nose flutes : the well patented and trademarked metal or plastic ones, plus, by a condemnable indulgence, some wooden craft or home-made productions.

Feb 3, 2013

Flute or Whistle: about the name

I've been asked by a french magazine to write a paper about our instrument. And the recurrent question of the right/legitimate name for it bothers me again. Particularly in French.

Nowadays, the popular usage has consecrated the nouns nose flute in English, Nasenflöte in German, and neusfluit in Dutch. A few people still use nose whistle, almost no German people say Nasenpfeife, and dutch people use neusfluit (nose flute) and not neusfluitje (nose whistle).

Indeed, in anglo-saxon countries, there had been a continuity from the 1920's until now, even if the strand has been very tiny at some periods of the 20th century. After the 1900-1930 first wave, Gretsch launched the plastic Humanatone in the 40's, and Weidlich&Lohse the Schwan in the 1950's. Those were imported in the Netherlands. And there were people to play those instruments, creating what can be called a nose flute culture. Finally and progressively, the name of the instrument has been fixed and frozen. Nose flute, Nasenflöte, neusfluit.

There is such a sparse but spread culture that the instrument received some nicknames, more or less ironical: "tin handkerchief", "snot flute", etc.

Even the japanese people say hanabue (鼻笛), and they indifferently write 笛 for whistle or flute. They still use the name they had for the traditional bamboo nose flute.

The Specificity of French

In France, there has been no continuity from the 1920's Ocariflute to... to what? There are no nose flutists in France. Well, let's say there is just a handful of players, disseminated and isolated. No way to compose a common knowledge and culture, no way to agree around a name. Worst, when some new instruments appeared on the market, they generally were called by their trade names: Ocariflute, Mellibrou, ... Bocarina!

From time to time, however, some people had to use a generic name, and were a bit embarrassed. This is the case now, while the instrument begins to be known.

The most used appellations are "flûte à nez" and "flûte de nez".
The disadvantage of the first one is a possibility of confusion. "Flûte à bec" ("flute with a beak") is the name for the beak flute, and people are used to it. So "flûte à nez" sounds like "flute with a nose".
"Flûte de nez" sounds rather filthy in French (it sounds like the flute is coming from your nose...)

Flûte nasale (nasal flute) would certainly be the most elegant version, but is generally used for the traditional nose flutes, the polynesian vivo for instance.

Only "sifflet nasal" (nasal whistle) would sound regular and would not be confusing... besides the tonal variability which is not induced by the noun whistle.

But is our instrument really a flute or is it a whistle?

The Generic Name: Flute or Whistle?

Is our instrument really a flute? There are several possible approaches to answer this question.

First, let's take a look at the Horbostel-Sachs classification (1914), which is the reference for scientists and academics.

Our instruments are aerophones, and its classification begins with the figure 4.
Then, immediately, a problem occurs. Is the vibrating air contained in the instrument? Well... partly yes, and partly no. Is the mouth cavity part of the instrument? Well, no, as the fingers do not belong to the piano. But the instrument is not comparable to a whip or a bullroarer. Let's say the air is contained in the instrument (in the airway, indeed). So, we belong to class 42.
Next step is 421 and even 421.2 ("breath is directed through a duct against an edge").
Finally, we get a 421.221 ("Single flutes with internal duct").

Then, a "fatal error" happens: either we have to decide to be a simple whistle (open flute without fingerhole), but this class (421.221.11) allocates no possibility of tonal variability, or to choose for the "stopped flute" (by the mouth) and slowly make for a piston flute!

Well, there is another possibility: 43, Unclassified aerophones.

As you can see, the Hornbostel-Sachs classification is not perfectly adapted to every instruments. What number to give to the typewriter used by Erik Satie as an instrument? Even being less extreme, other paradoxes have been reported (for instance, see: A proposed new classification system for musical instrument by J. Montagu and J. Burton)

An Answer by Randy Raine-Reusch

[Please, be sure there is no disrespect towards Mr. Raine-Reusch or his work in what follows. Mr. Raine-Reusch is an eminent ethnomusicologist and scholar, with a knowledge far above my little speculations. The lines that follows are not an attack, just a series of questions]

When I received a mail from the ethnomusicologist Randy Raine-Reusch (see this post) about the Guaranis, he began his answer by:

« Thanks for writing. First let me please make a correction. The instruments you play and are interested in are not flutes, so calling them a nose flute is not correct. They are in fact whistles and are correctly called nose whistles. »

Why did Mr. Raine-Reusch sort the instrument among whistles and not beside flutes? There are several possibilities for that:

- the usage
- the absence of finger holes
- the sound
- the shape

The Usage

The idea behind this is that a flute would produce music and a whistle a signal or a rhythm only (a percussive instrument). This would lead us to call nose flute our instrument.

Maybe Mr. Raine-Reusch was precisely dealing with the Guarani instrument, from which he wrote:

« The instrument that you play is originally from the Guaranis people used for calling birds, to my knowledge it was not used for melodies. However, this whistles along with many other native whistles became popular for use in Samba bands in Brazil, and you can easily see them at the Carnival parades. »

It occurs that a reader of this blog (Mr. Don Luis, from Mexico) found a quotation showing that the Guaranis, long before Blues and Jazz bands, used the instrument to play music, and not only to call birds:

(Nelson Gastaldi, Fairy Tales from the Grilling Fields):

« You also lived with the Guaranies Indians.

« Yes, I lived for some time in their tribe near the Brazilian border because I was interested mainly in their very rich language. (...) The Guaranies have a very special music that can be located in the field of ritual music; in fact, the relationship between the sacred, magic and music has been historically present at all times and in all civilizations. The Guaranies mainly use a nose flute, and they sing in groups gathered around the fire. Sometimes I accompanied them with a harmonica or a melodica, and they were pretty interested in the results of this musical experience. Zima, the shaman from the tribe, once said I was always with the Indians and with the dead people. »

Since they played ritual music, we may suppose that musical nose flute playing was not a modern usage for the Guaranis...

Anyway, our instrument is used for music, and even if some may blow it during carnivals, nobody would call "signals" the beautiful 1924-27 solos by Lloyd Buford Threlkeld, or the recent ones by sensei Mosurin...

The Finger holes

Has a flute to have finger holes to be a flute? As noted by Mr. Montagu, "we have already encountered the Venda and Lithuanian flute bands in which each instrument only produces one note". I would personally add a question: "how many pipes must a pan flute have to be called a flute?".

So, the question of the finger holes does not seem to be relevant.

The Sound

Any person that has already listened to a decent nose flute knows that it sounds close to a flute, and quite far from a whistle. Anyway, if you build a decent whistle, with a big "belly" in order to get a lower tonality, you can approach a flute sound. Contrarywise, take a very small flute, very sharp, and you'll get a whistle sound. So, the point is not relevant.

The Shape

Here comes probably the core question... Have a flute to be a long rod to deserve the name of flute? Does the word "flute" include a notion of tube?

In Latin, a flute is called... a tibia. That's the reason our bone is called tibia, because tibia mean stem, and induces a notion of length and hollow.

But we're not talking of a tibia, but dealing with a flute.

flute (n.)
early 14c., from Old French flaute (12c.), from Old Provençal flaut, of uncertain origin, perhaps imitative or from Latin flare "to blow;" perhaps influenced by Provençal laut "lute." The other Germanic words (cf. German flöte) are likewise borrowings from French.

Other etymological dictionaries are less hesitant about the flo,flare origin.

No reference to a long rod.

In the probable case the word comes from the latin flare, I went to check my Latin etymological dictionary (Ernout et Meillet, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine):

Flo, -as, -aui, -atum, -are : souffler. (...) « fondre » (le métal pour la monnaie, aes flatum, etc.). Ancien, usuel.

That is: Flo: to blow. (...) « to melt » (metal for coins...).

So, Flute would be related to the fact of blowing and not to a shape. This is the same etymon that would have driven to flow, blow, blasen (german) or fluxus...

More, this air flow has no specific relation with the mouth. Flatus means the breath or the wind. The trivial evidence is that the word also provided flatulence.

And contrarywise, why the Hawaiian nose flute made of a gourd, with a globular shape, is called a flute? Because of its two finger holes?


In conclusion, I cannot see any solid reason NOT to call a nose flute a flute. But I certainly would appreciate a lot an answer from Mr. Raine-Reusch, because I'm not sure to have scanned all the points that drove him to discard our instrument from the "flute world".

On the specific "french problem" in finding the most appropriate generic name, I still have no anwer, beside nicknames like Nasalette, Narinette, etc. Well, flûte nasale is probably the best...


  1. I love this article and I think it is an important issue. I have always been intrigued by the origins of the "nose flute" and pretty sure it had to have some obscure ethnic name. I was never able to find any fancy name though...

    Since the oldest recorded "buccal cavity driven nose flute" stems from the Guarani culture, it would be interesting to know how they call or called it. Great to hear Luis's story about how the Guarani actually did play melody on the instrument, something I did expect them to do.

    I feel the word "instrument" is quite interesting itself: it can mean both a tool and a producer of musical melody. "Our nose flute" actually covers both meanings, as it originally was created and used both as a bird call and a musical instrument.

    According to whistle collector Piet Visser, a whistle produces one single tone or possibly two (by overblowing), and a flute two or more, which allows for melody and therefore music. "Our nose flute" is actually capable of producing 5 scales of free intonation, making it much more than a simple whistle.

    However, I have no real trouble with calling "our instrument" a "nose whistle". As a matter of fact, "art whistling" is practiced and performed at much higher levels than "nose whistling". There are even world championships in art whistling and quite a few professional art whistlers around.

    Also, there are many other "natural" instruments that only produce one tone of its own, yet do allow for melody: it's the player's ability that counts here. The same applies here. So, I feel there's nothing wrong with the name "nose whistle". Funny enough, there are indeed certain types of flutes that have one single opening and only produce one key tone...

    The thing probably is that "we" are used to the name "nose flute". Even this blog would have to change its name then... and if it changed, I reckon far fewer people would be able to find the site online, as they probably didnt know the "proper" name of the instrument.

    About the Horbostel-Sachs classification: Dimitri Mendeleev allowed room for unknown and future elements to be put into his Periodic Table. This could also apply to the nose flute in the world of musical instruments surely.

    If our instrument can be called a flute, why not call it a flute, and when the aspect of blowing is what a flute is all about, surely the airflow coming from the nose would allow for calling it a nose flute. However, if we were to call our "nose flute" a "nose whistle", it would become easy to distinguish the instrument from the fingerhole-played nose flute.

    Maybe the instrument should be totally renamed? Perhaps it could be given a name that focuses on the free pitch instead of on the airflow coming from the nose? That would eradicate the nasty relation to the nose and its contents for a start... Maybe that could be the first step towards a brighter future of the instrument?

  2. Comment from Mr. Raine-Reusch:

    It is true that the term flute has been used for the instrument you play in common usage. However I make the designation that it is a whistle to differentiate it from the nose flutes found in Melanesia and South-east Asia, which are melodic based instruments.

  3. Dear Maikel,

    Yes, I would like to know the Guaranis' appellation for this instrument too..

    I'm not shocked to hear or read "nose whistle". But to me, this name does not transmit the idea of a variable picth. "Nose variable whistle" sounds strange, but righter.

    I do not totally agree with Piet Visser in that there are some whistles with several notes: the samba whistle for instance, which can play 3 notes. And nobody would call them flutes.

    My opinion is that a whistle produces a signal or a rhythm (percussive instrument) and not a melody.
    That's why I'm attached to the denomination of "nose flute". Just because flute induces the playability and thus, music.

    I'm glad with the answer by Mr. Raine-Reusch: it shows his choice for the name does not depend on scientific/musicological criteria, but only on a will to be clear between tradi. and modern flutes.
    This is not much important to me, since traditional nose flutes are off-topic in this blog. We just need to specify "modern" or "urban" nose flute when there is a risk of confusion.

    When one says "locomotive" it does not specify if it's a steam or an electric one. Nobody will ask to use for another name for the modern version, because there would be a risk of confusion with the steam ones. But when there is a risk, one just need to precise "electric" or "steam".

    I just wanted to know if the general use of the word "nose flute" was erroneous. And it is not (I think I demonstrated it).

    More: "nose whistle" is also used to call the noise produced by the nose while breathing ...

    1. You're right about a "nose whistle" being a (temporary) malfunctioning in clear breathing, yet one of my points is that whistling is considered an art form. Check out this example to get an impression:

      There even are a couple of ancient whistled languages! Check out the following links to get an impression: and . Interestingly, from your post about Buford Threlkeld I see that the nose flute was called "nose whistle". Like the word "instrument" itself, the word "whistle" can be attributed to both serious and entertaining use.

      The thing in Dutch is that a "fluit" is considered an instrument whilst a "fluitje" is considered a toy or a novelty. We even have a saying going "Het is een fluitje van een cent.", meaning "Easy-peazy" or "It's hardly anything." To be complete: the "fluitje van een cent" is also the equivalent of the "penny whistle", which is the famous traditional Celtic flute that produces such wonderful atmospheric music.

      The advantage of the word "nose whistle" would be that a clear distinction is made between the finger-played and the buccal cavity driven nose flutes. I do like the word "urban nose flute" for our instrument, yet our nose flute has been around with the Guarani for who knows how many hundreds or even thousands of years, who not only used it for calling birds but also and I can imagine specifically for rituals and play, as Luis's contribution proves.

      About the Latin word "tibia": thousands of years BC people actually used bones, particularly bird bones, to create flutes from, as they would use any other natural material from the world surrounding them. Top flute player Wil Offermans for instance holds a stone age flute in his collection which is nothing but a flat stone disc with a straight slit running through the middle. Pitch can be obtained by running thumbs through this slit, narrowing or broadening the opening, in very much the same way vocal cords lengthen and shorten to create pitch shifts. Traditionally, children in the Netherlands would play notes on acorn cupules in autumn in the very same fashion.

      Mr Offermans actually went on to create a new flute, the Thumpy flute, along this principle, this time at both ends of a tube. Here you get an idea of the principle: It is a very simple instrument, with only 2 keyholes, yet it can produce any music your ability allows you to. It is called a flute anyway.

      I really would like to find out the Guarani name for the nose flute and think I would prefer that, as it instantly provides a historic background and just one indelible name to it. The modern, urban concept could do with a name that pinpoints the free pitch of the instrument. Either of the two would eradicate the idea that people might have of our nose flute as a novelty. This new name could then take the instrument to a new level.

      Anyone with a proposal for a proper new name?

    2. Oh, if we look for a new name, there are many that fit well! Nasalette for instance! Anyway, there is no mean to change the usage, good or bad.

      My point was to check if the word flute was right ot wrong, and if whistle would be more (or less) appropriate. I do not put "whistles" in a trash and "flutes" on a throne! But clearly, it appeared taht what we call whistle do not produce music, but just signals (i'm not talking with "whistling", but deal with a material instrument). Even if the shepherd whistle can produce a melody, in the collective unconscious, a whistle makes "twiit twiit" while a flute plays delicious melodies. That's on that point that our instrument deserves the name of flute. It is not usurped. I sometimes use "nose whistle" for a Bocarina for instance, but I use it here, on this blog, when there is not risk of confusion. If I had a conférence to do, before people who do not know a word about nose flutes, I would never say "nose whistle". or would I say "variable pitch nose whistle".

      I love the Guarani flute, but to me, there is no link between it and the flutes we play. The Guarani flute belongs to traditional flutes, and our modern ones was not an evolution from it, but a total recreation without any reference. So, yes, "urban nose flute" fits to our instruments. The Guaranis didn't invented the "urban nose flute", it was Carter. The Guaranis invented a very special nose flute, regarding the other traditional ones, that was a "forest nose flute". It was used to call birds and to play ritual music. It is "as extraordinary" as the hawaiian gourd nose flute is. A UFO. But not an ancestor. That's because we are far in the time, with internet and access to some musicologic knowledge that we are tempted to make a link between both instrument (Guarani and Carter), but there is none. Creating this artificial link is called teleology. And it's a mistake.

      It's not because we would find a petrified trunk with 4 wheels that we could say that neanderthal invented the car. Even if we know that Vikings went to America long time ago, we consider Colombus as its discoverer.

      There is one instrument on which we can say the Guaranis are at the origin: the wooden nose flute produced in Vietnam and sold on Ebay. The shape clearly show that the modern vietnamese copied a Guarani flute. So, yes, the vietnamese flute has a traditional shape, as if I'd built a gourd nose flute today in my office. But Carter's Nasalette has not a tradi. shape, it's the fruit of "engineering" (as low tech as it was).

      The Thumpyflute is a nice instrument. Yes, it's a flute, since (at the end of the video) it can play melodies. If it was just able to blow 3 notes, it would be a percussive instrument. That's my point of view, but I know there is no point of view 100% accurate.

      The guarani name would b of a great ethnomusicologic interest, but absolutely of no use in the history of urban nose flute. Even if they had called it "the angel breath" or "flute of the flute". How did the Vikings named America? Should we ask American people to change the name of their country? Would it even change anything of the image we have of America?

      You see my point?

    3. I have always known the nose flute as a nose flute, and think that most people will have it in their consciousness as such. The Raine-Reusch explication revealed that technically it would have to be called a nose whistle. However, all of these comments gathered here reveal that it doesn't really matter whether it's called a whistle or a flute. The tin/penny whistle produces one of the best loved flute sounds around, so there clearly is no distinction between the sound and the fact that either a whistle or a flute is played. I think that the distinction between a flute and a whistle is that of cost and craftmanship: the penny whistle after all simply cost a penny. A whistle is a simple instrument in the sense of a tool and costs very little: after all, one can whistle with the lips, with an acorn cupule, a Voegli whistle and so on. A flute is considered a musical instrument, as it had to be carefully crafted and therefore costs more.

      I have always found that the more something costs, the more it is valued. The thing with the nose flute is probably that it is considered a toy or a novelty or a whistle because of its cheapness. Its mass-production in plastic brought the price down because it didn't have to be made entirely by hand. Also, its popularity and mostly its recognition was brought down because a proper musical instrument isn't made of plastics. A professional kazoo after all is made of metal, not plastic. The plastic saxophones that John Coltrane promoted also didn't catch on.

      Antoine, you have proved to me that the Guarani flute and the Carter Humanatone aren't connected whatsoever, so I am not debating that surely. What I really liked to find out today is the fact that the Guarani nose flute wasn't just used as a bird call, but also as a musical instrument, which to me had always sounded the most logical thing!

      The name nose flute certainly can stick if you ask me. My only concern is the image of the instrument as represented by its current name. Moreover, In just how countries and languages is it called just that, "nose flute", "Nasenfloete" and "neusfluit"? They are all translations of trhe same word(s) into other languages, whilst one indelible name for our instrument doesn't require any translation and also
      prevents any silly mistakes such as you pointed out with the French names ("flute from the nose" and so on).

      The Japanese call the nose flute "hanabue", of which I don't know what it exactly means, as the "shakuhachi" is the name of their traditional bambu flute. Also, I really would like to know the Guarani name: any ideas how to get to know?

      My last point: I would really prefer to have a name for the nose flute that a) doesn't direct all attention to the nose, as that is considered repulsive and/or funny in "our" culture, b) is more accurate as the instrument is played by both the nose and the mouth, and c) focuses on the ability of the instrument to produce absolute free pitch.

      What I like about this post is that it clearly creates a lot of involvement: it's certainly good to see all these replies and comments.

    4. Maikel, I don't agree with your second sentence. What Mr. Raine-Reusch said is that his choice was absolutely not lead by a technical point of view! He wrote that he says "whistle" just no to confuse with the traditional flutes! So, to me, this argument has absolutely no value... (like saying I don't want to call a electric locomotive "locomotive" not to confuse it with a steam engine.

      I do not agree neither with your last point. The nose flute specificity is to be played with the nose. Let's accept it and be proud of it! (remember that the nasal breath is noble! Only the Brahmin are allowed to play nose flute, while other flutes are played by low castes

    5. I had understood that Mr Raine-Reusch was quite strict in that department. This information I received quite a few years ago, when information about the nose flute was very scarce and certainly not bundled as on your blog. I have seen the same stand on the nose flute as a nose whistle several times later on the net again, so I assumed that it had to be "official", particularly as I am by no means a technical expert! I am pleasantly surprised Mr Raine-Reusch clarified that the only reason for it was making a distinction between the two types of nose flute.

      To me, the real selling point of the nose flute is its freedom of pitch. It is possible to create a complete freedom of sound and notes, just like with whistling or singing. I must say I have noticed that more air flows from my mouth than from my nose when playing. This may be simply my technique of playing the instrument, yet it makes me take up the position that it's not just the nasal breath that drives our nose flute.

      Obviously our nose flute has a very special feature which is the application of nasal breath. The name "nose flute" couldn't be simpler and clearer. Anyway, I have not been able to find or invent another, possibly more suitable name for it. Moreover, it is generally known as a nose flute.

      What I loved to read from your reply, is the exclusivity attached to it in India! I do realize the nose flute concept has special meaning... so, yes, we can and should be proud of our instrument! Only in our often "ignorant" Western world the nose flute is too often considered simply "entertaining" or "repulsive".

    6. Maikel, have you red his answer? "However I make the designation that it is a whistle to differentiate it from the nose flutes found in Melanesia and South-east Asia, which are melodic based instruments".

      He says that the dinstinction comes just in order to not confuse! It means it's not a "technical" point of view (or he doesn't know — I would be surprised — that our nose flutes are also melodic based instrument!

    7. That's an interesting point you make: I guess I didn't quite read that into it! I suppose Mr Raine-Reusch looks upon the traditional nose flute as a melody-based instrument, since it has key-holes that supply a fixed intonation. However, he just might not be aware what our instrument can produce. He might not have played the free-pitch nose flute himself or not even have held it in his hands for that matter, I really wouldn't know!

      I myself have always looked upon our nose flute as a melody-based instrument and would still consider it as such even if it were used as a bird call! After all, birds really are where melodies originate from, if you ask me...! A flute in particular, as possibly the first proper musical instrument, initially was used to imitate those sounds....

      Anyway, music is just sound, vibrations of air. The fun thing is that once I had mastered pitch and melody on the nose flute, I started creating sound effects and percussive techniques... The nose flute is so unbelievably versatile!

    8. I think that Mr. Raine-Reusch doesn't not care much about our instrument... He's interested in traditional flutes, and our urban nose flute appears to him like... a toy. Doesn't matter.

  4. Let me add that in the Dutch language whistling is „fluiten" while playing a flute (fluit in Dutch) is „fluit spelen" (playing the flute). A flute in Dutch is „fluit" and a whistle is „fluitje" (little flute or flûtette(Fr.) ) as mentioned in your article. With which I want to show that the difference between whistle and flute is very unclear in Dutch.
    I like the idea of adding a prefix in cases where it should be unclear about what type of noseflute we're talking about.

    1. Yes Harm, I also feel that "whistle" induces an idea of toy and "flute" of music. That the reason I am very relieved to see that the name "flute" is not usurped for our instrument...
      Yes too, it is very easy to say "urban" or "modern" nose flute when there is a possibility of confusion. I personally prefer "urban", because "modern" is oftenly attached to the avant-gardes, and the Bocarina, for instance, is totally "post-modern". Why "urban"? Just because they were/are designed to be played on stages and not in the deepness of the woods or for rituals at the edge of the river.

  5. Technically speaking, I think that "nose flute" is correct. I think it is a kind of "vessel flute"( Like the ocarina is a vessel flute, but can also be thought of as a kind of whistle.

    It can also be called a "nose whistle"(

    I have no problem with saying either "whistle" or "flute", just as I can say "car" or "auto". But I like to call it "nose flute", just as I like to say "tin whistle" instead of "tin flute", though I think the tin whistle is a kind of flute.

    1. Ooops, I made a mistake in the link for "nose whistle", the correct link is:

    2. Luis, vessel flute is not correct. Vessel flute means there is an "inside", a cavity. And the cavity of our instrument is outside the instrument itself : the mouth.

      Whistle is not the proper name:

      whistle : Old English hwistlian, from Proto-Germanic *khwis-, of imitative origin. Used also in Middle English of the hissing of serpents.

      It means that a whistle is a very sharp tone instrument. It is the same in French and Latin "siffler" comes from "sibilo" that is an "imitative" form.

      So, if I sum up:

      - a whistle makes a very sharp and "ssss" sound
      - a flute is comes from the breath/blow

      it's funny because in french, its "siffler"(to whistle) and "souffler"(to blow).

      So, technically speaking, our instrument is a flute with no doubt at all.

    3. Great to see this kind of proof! It seems the French language has a very implicit answer after all: "siffler" with a close, central, sharp-sounding first vowel versus "souffler" with a front, open-mid, round-sounding first vowel (with rounded lips that are required to fit around or adjust to an opening).
      There's an answer to everything eventually... bring on the soufflés!!!

    4. Well, it's not always like that, but in this case, yes, siffler and souffler both are "mimetic". And as you point it, it's clear that siffler is sharper.

    5. Last night I watched the Culture Show on BBC2, which was about Ice Age Art and the great exhibition on this topic which is on currently (until 26 May 2013) in the British Museum in London. Check this link if you're interested:

      The fascinating thing to me is that they show the oldest known flute in the world, which is estimated to be between 38,000 and 40,000 years old. It was made from the wingbone of a vulture. So, the oldest known (fingerplayed) flute was made from a bird bone. To me that explains for the Latin word "tibia" for both flute and bone.

      This flute is about 30 centimetres long with the diameter of a reed. I can imagine that ancient flutes made from reed or wood were subject to deterioration. If they were made that long ago, which they probably were, they are likely to have disappeared whilst flutes made from bone have remained.

  6. Well,what a great and interesting post and inspiring remarks by your readers! Merci beaucoup! And thanks Maikel for the interesting links, the thumpy flute is very interesting and so is the paedagogical work of its inventor. Concerning the name of our beloved instrument - we know we that it is possible to play music on a high level with the noseflute. Yet it is by its appearance a funny instrument, no matter how you put it - you just look stupid. And you make people laugh. And I think in a world like ours it is very much ok to make people laugh even if they consider you a clown. If you transport musical quality as well they will notice also. But it just is a funny thing, a flute played with the nose. I admit that I like using the name for explaining how it works. It would feel strange to me to invent a new, maybe more "serious" or original name. This is my personal opinion. For the flute/whistle distinction I share the opinion of our blogmaster, flute sounds more like playing "real" melodies.
    Et les pauvres francais avec leur langage difficile! What about "flute pour le nez"...

    1. Hello Nosymic,

      I agree with you: and if the nose flute looks funny, it' just because people are not accustomed to it. Imagine you see a trumpet or horn player for the first time of your life. Isn't that funny to blow like a horse in the little part of a big brass instrument ? Isn't a person holding an opened umbrella totally funny?

      We find nose flute funny/stupid because the judeo-christian civilisation has put a shame on the nose. Why? The mouth is much more disgusting (much more microbs in the mouth than in the nose). The Hawaiians used to say: nose music is much nobler, because there has never been any lie coming out of a nose, contrarywise to the mouth (Pinocchio didn't exist yet:)). Japanese people are much more free than westerners. I need to find if there is something "against" the nose in the Bible ...

    2. It would be very interesting if you or anybody else could find something "against" the nose in the Bible! Now I've come of think of it, there are many civilisations around the world who show their affection by rubbing their noses up against each other, whilst the "West", particularly from Hollywood movies, is associated with mouth kisses, or for that matter "French" kisses... Which is the more sophisticated, I wonder...

    3. I looked for and found nothing. Just many golden rings in the nose.

    4. I had the honour to do a honggi with Maori on several occasions where as a greeting or a way to say thanks in one case, you press your nose against the nose of the other person. This way your soul which is in your breath mingles with the soul of the other person. So your nose is pretty important.