Human whistling is the production of sound
Sound is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard, or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations.-Propagation of...

 by means of carefully controlling a stream of air flowing through a small hole. Whistling can be achieved by creating a small opening with one's lip
Lips are a visible body part at the mouth of humans and many animals. Lips are soft, movable, and serve as the opening for food intake and in the articulation of sound and speech...

s and then blow
Exhalation is the movement of air out of the bronchial tubes, through the airways, to the external environment during breathing....

ing or sucking air through the hole. The air is moderated by the lips, tongue, teeth or fingers (placed over the mouth) to create turbulence
In fluid dynamics, turbulence or turbulent flow is a flow regime characterized by chaotic and stochastic property changes. This includes low momentum diffusion, high momentum convection, and rapid variation of pressure and velocity in space and time...

, and the mouth acts as a resonant
In physics, resonance is the tendency of a system to oscillate at a greater amplitude at some frequencies than at others. These are known as the system's resonant frequencies...

 chamber to enhance the resulting sound by acting as a type of Helmholtz resonator
Helmholtz resonance
Helmholtz resonance is the phenomenon of air resonance in a cavity, such as when one blows across the top of an empty bottle. The name comes from a device created in the 1850s by Hermann von Helmholtz, the "Helmholtz resonator", which he, the author of the classic study of acoustic science, used to...

, producing a pure tone like a sine wave
Sine wave
The sine wave or sinusoid is a mathematical function that describes a smooth repetitive oscillation. It occurs often in pure mathematics, as well as physics, signal processing, electrical engineering and many other fields...

. Whistling can also be produced by blowing air through enclosed, cupped hands or through an external instrument
Wind instrument
A wind instrument is a musical instrument that contains some type of resonator , in which a column of air is set into vibration by the player blowing into a mouthpiece set at the end of the resonator. The pitch of the vibration is determined by the length of the tube and by manual modifications of...

, such as a whistle
A whistle or call is a simple aerophone, an instrument which produces sound from a stream of forced air. It may be mouth-operated, or powered by air pressure, steam, or other means...

 or even a blade of grass
Grasses, or more technically graminoids, are monocotyledonous, usually herbaceous plants with narrow leaves growing from the base. They include the "true grasses", of the Poaceae family, as well as the sedges and the rushes . The true grasses include cereals, bamboo and the grasses of lawns ...

 or leaf.

Musical/melodic whistling

Whistling can be musical: many performers on the music hall
Music hall
Music Hall is a type of British theatrical entertainment which was popular between 1850 and 1960. The term can refer to:# A particular form of variety entertainment involving a mixture of popular song, comedy and speciality acts...

 and Vaudeville
Vaudeville was a theatrical genre of variety entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. Each performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill...

 circuits were professional whistlers, the most famous of which were Ronnie Ronalde
Ronnie Ronalde
Ronnie Ronalde is a British music hall singer and siffleur. Ronalde is famous for his voice, whistling, yodelling, imitations of bird song and stage personality...

 and Fred Lowery
Fred Lowery
Fred Lowery was a blind professional whistler who recorded a #9 Billboard chart hit version of The High and the Mighty with conductor and arranger LeRoy Holmes. Lowery whistled with Horace Heidt and Vincent Lopez in the 1930s and 40s...

. Both had several notable songs featuring whistling.

Pucker whistling is the most common form of whistling used in most Western music. Typically, the tongue tip is lowered, often placed behind the lower teeth, and pitch altered by varying the position of the tongue
The tongue is a muscular hydrostat on the floors of the mouths of most vertebrates which manipulates food for mastication. It is the primary organ of taste , as much of the upper surface of the tongue is covered in papillae and taste buds. It is sensitive and kept moist by saliva, and is richly...

. In particular, the point at which the tongue body approximates the palate
The palate is the roof of the mouth in humans and other mammals. It separates the oral cavity from the nasal cavity. A similar structure is found in crocodilians, but, in most other tetrapods, the oral and nasal cavities are not truly separate. The palate is divided into two parts, the anterior...

 varies from near the uvula (for low notes) to near the alveolar ridge
Alveolar ridge
An alveolar ridge is one of the two jaw ridges either on the roof of the mouth between the upper teeth and the hard palate or on the bottom of the mouth behind the lower teeth. The alveolar ridges contain the sockets of the teeth....

 (for high notes). Although varying the degree of pucker will change the pitch of a pucker whistle, expert pucker whistlers will generally only make small variations to the degree of pucker, due to its tendency to affect purity of tone. Pucker whistling can be done by either only blowing out or blowing in and out alternately . In the ' only blow out' method , a consistent tone is achieved but a negligible pause has to be taken to breathe in. In the alternating method there is no problem of breathlessness or interruption as breath is taken when one whistles breathing in . But a disadvantage of this method is that many a times , the consistency of tone is not maintained and it fluctuates.

Many expert musical palatal whistlers will substantially alter the position of the lips to ensure a good quality tone. Venetian gondoliers are famous for moving the lips while they whistle in a way that can look like singing. A good example of a palatal whistler is Luke Janssen
Luke Janssen
Luke Janssen is the winner of the 2009 world whistling competition. The holds the competition annually in Louisburg, North Carolina.Luke's whistling is unique as he uses his tongue and roof of his mouth rather than his lips in the more common pucker style...

 winner of the 2009 world whistling competition.

The term puccalo
Puccalo is the term used for the highest level of human oral mouth whistling. The term is derived from combining the words "pucker" and "piccolo" and it refers to a level of skill and talent in human whistling which produces notes and tones that are so clear and precise, they remind the listener...

refers to highly skilled jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...


The most significant whistling competition is run by the International Whistlers Convention in North Carolina, USA. Held every year (recently every other has been in other countries), it brings together whistlers from all over the world who battle for the crown of 'International Grand Champion'

Functional whistling

Apart from being used as simply a method of calling the attention of another (or others), or a musical endeavour, whistling has long been used as a specialized communication between laborers. For example, whistling in theatre, particularly on-stage, is used by flymen to cue the lowering or raising of a batten
Batten (theater)
In theater, batten refers to a long metal pole suspended above the stage or the audience from which lighting fixtures, theatrical scenery, tabs or other curtains may be hung...

 pipe or flat
Flats (theatre)
Flats, short for Scenery Flats, are flat pieces of theatrical scenery which are painted and positioned on stage so as to give the appearance of buildings or other background. They are also called backdrops or backcloths....

. This method of communication became popular before the invention of electronic means of communication, and is still in use, primarily in older "hemp" houses during the set and strike of a show. Traditionally, sailors were often used as stage technicians
A stagehand is a person who works backstage or behind the scenes in theatres, film, television, or location performance. Their duties include setting up the scenery, lights, sound, props, rigging, and special effects for a production.-Types of stagehand:...

, working with the complicated rope systems associated with flying. Coded whistles would be used to call cues, so it is thought that whistling on-stage may cause, for example, a cue to come early, a "sailor's ghost
In traditional belief and fiction, a ghost is the soul or spirit of a deceased person or animal that can appear, in visible form or other manifestation, to the living. Descriptions of the apparition of ghosts vary widely from an invisible presence to translucent or barely visible wispy shapes, to...

" to drop a set-piece on top of an actor, or general bad luck in the performance.

Whistling as a language

In the Spanish
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 canary island
Canary Islands
The Canary Islands , also known as the Canaries , is a Spanish archipelago located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa, 100 km west of the border between Morocco and the Western Sahara. The Canaries are a Spanish autonomous community and an outermost region of the European Union...

 of La Gomera
La Gomera
La Gomera is one of Spain's Canary Islands, located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa. In area, it is the second-smallest of the seven main islands of this group.- Political organization :...

, a traditional whistled language named silbo gomero is still taught in school. Six separate whistling sounds are used to produce two vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

s and four consonant
In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounced with the back of the tongue; , pronounced in the throat; and ,...

s, allowing this language to convey more than 4000 word
In language, a word is the smallest free form that may be uttered in isolation with semantic or pragmatic content . This contrasts with a morpheme, which is the smallest unit of meaning but will not necessarily stand on its own...

. This language allowed people (e.g. shepherd
A shepherd is a person who tends, feeds or guards flocks of sheep.- Origins :Shepherding is one of the oldest occupations, beginning some 6,000 years ago in Asia Minor. Sheep were kept for their milk, meat and especially their wool...

s) to communicate over long distances in the island, when other communication means were not available.


Whistling is often used by spectators at sporting events to express their opinions of the action taking place before them, but has different meanings depending on where the event takes place. In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, whistling is used much like applause
Applause is primarily the expression of approval by the act of clapping, or striking the palms of the hands together, in order to create noise. Audiences are usually expected to applaud after a performance, such as a musical concert, speech, or play...

, to express approval or appreciation for the efforts of a team or a player, such as a starting pitcher
Starting pitcher
In baseball or softball, a starting pitcher is the pitcher who delivers the first pitch to the first batter of a game. A pitcher who enters the game after the first pitch of the game is a relief pitcher....

 in baseball
Baseball is a bat-and-ball sport played between two teams of nine players each. The aim is to score runs by hitting a thrown ball with a bat and touching a series of four bases arranged at the corners of a ninety-foot diamond...

 who is taken out of the game after having pitched well. Often, a finger whistling technique is used to produce the desired sound.

Conversely, in much of the rest of the world, especially Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, whistling is used to express displeasure with the action or disagreement with an official's decision. This whistling is often loud and cacophonous.


In Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n and other Slavic
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...

 cultures (also in Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

), whistling indoors is superstitiously believed to bring poverty ("whistling money away"), whereas whistling outdoors is considered normal. In Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

, it is said that whistling indoors will attract mice
A mouse is a small mammal belonging to the order of rodents. The best known mouse species is the common house mouse . It is also a popular pet. In some places, certain kinds of field mice are also common. This rodent is eaten by large birds such as hawks and eagles...

, while in Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

, Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, parts of South East Asia, and South India
South India
South India is the area encompassing India's states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu as well as the union territories of Lakshadweep and Pondicherry, occupying 19.31% of India's area...

, whistling at night is thought to bring snakes.. In Hawaiian lore, whistling at night is considered bad luck because it mimics the sound of Nightmarchers
In Hawaiian legend, Nightmarchers are the ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors. On the nights of Kane, Ku, Lono, Akua, or on the nights of Kaloa they are said to come forth from their burial sites to march out to past battles or to other sacred places. They march at sunset and just before the sun...

. In the Philippines, it is considered disrespectful to whistle in public places especially in the presence of women. When women do so it is simply improper.

Whistling on board a sailing ship is thought to encourage the wind strength to increase. This is regularly alluded to in the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O'Brian
Patrick O'Brian
Patrick O'Brian, CBE , born Richard Patrick Russ, was an English novelist and translator, best known for his Aubrey–Maturin series of novels set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars and centred on the friendship of English Naval Captain Jack Aubrey and the Irish–Catalan physician Stephen...

. Theater practice has plenty of superstitions. One of them is whistling: in most theaters (especially in opera houses, where the odds are that a catchy opera tune will be unconsciously whistled), whistling on stage is thought to bring bad luck or at least a bad performance. The reason may be that stagehands used whistled signals to communicate in the old houses, before radio links and other devices where introduced. On-stage whistling could be distracting or even dangerous, as it could be wrongly interpreted as a signal or stage cue.

In previous years in England, women were cautioned not to whistle as it was believed "A whistling woman never marries", leaving her to be a spinster
A spinster, or old maid, is an older, childless woman who has never been married.For a woman to be identified as a spinster, age is critical...


Popular culture

  • Ronnie Ronalde
    Ronnie Ronalde
    Ronnie Ronalde is a British music hall singer and siffleur. Ronalde is famous for his voice, whistling, yodelling, imitations of bird song and stage personality...

     detailed his musical career in his autobiography entitled Around the World On a Whistle.
  • Harpo Marx
    Harpo Marx
    Adolph "Harpo" Marx was an American comedian and film star. He was the second oldest of the Marx Brothers. His comic style was influenced by clown and pantomime traditions. He wore a curly reddish wig, and never spoke during performances...

     was known to communicate through whistling in both his onstage and on-film roles (such as A Night in Casablanca
    A Night in Casablanca
    A Night in Casablanca was the twelfth Marx Brothers movie, starring Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, and Harpo Marx. The picture was directed by Archie Mayo and written by Joseph Fields and Roland Kibbee, and is generally considered one of the better of the Marx Brothers' later films.-Plot:Set in...

  • Roger Whittaker
    Roger Whittaker
    Roger Whittaker is an Anglo-Kenyan singer-songwriter and musician with worldwide record sales of over 55 million. His music can be described as easy listening. He is best known for his baritone singing voice and trademark whistling ability...

     was first known as a musical whistler.
  • Bobbejaan Schoepen
    Bobbejaan Schoepen
    Bobbejaan Schoepen is a pseudonym of Modest Schoepen was a Flemish pioneer in Belgian pop music, vaudeville, and European country music...

    , a Flemish
    Flemish people
    The Flemings or Flemish are the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of Belgium, where they are mostly found in the northern region of Flanders. They are one of two principal cultural-linguistic groups in Belgium, the other being the French-speaking Walloons...

     entertainer, singer, guitarist
    A guitarist is a musician who plays the guitar. Guitarists may play a variety of instruments such as classical guitars, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and bass guitars. Some guitarists accompany themselves on the guitar while singing.- Versatility :The guitarist controls an extremely...

    , composer
    A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

    , former actor
    An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

    , and founder of one of the most popular theme parks in Europe: Bobbejaanland
    Bobbejaanland is a renowned theme park in Lichtaart, Belgium. It was founded by Bobbejaan Schoepen, a Flemish singer, guitarist, and entertainer who enjoyed international popularity in the fifties and early sixties. After 15 years he got weary of touring. In 1960 he decided to build his own music...

     was well known for his outstanding whistling, but in the late 1980s he lost the ability due to surgery.
  • Toots Thielemans
    Toots Thielemans
    Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor, Baron Thielemans , known as Toots Thielemans, is a Belgian jazz musician well known for his guitar and harmonica playing as well as his whistling. Thielemans is credited as one of the greatest harmonica players of the 20th century...

     is a Belgian jazz artist well known for his guitar, harmonica playing, and also for his highly accomplished professional whistling.
  • The Whistler
    The Whistler
    The Whistler was an American radio mystery drama which ran from May 16, 1942 until September 22, 1955. It was sponsored by the Signal Oil Company: "That whistle is your signal for the Signal Oil program, The Whistler." The program was adapted into a film noir series by Columbia Pictures in...

    radio series ran from 1942-1948. The show opened with the sound of footsteps and an eerie whistle.
  • Bing Crosby
    Bing Crosby
    Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby was an American singer and actor. Crosby's trademark bass-baritone voice made him one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century, with over half a billion records in circulation....

     whistled and trilled in some of his songs, including "White Christmas
    White Christmas (song)
    "White Christmas" is an Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide.Accounts vary as...

    ". He could imitate a birdcall and then riff on it with a swing styling.
  • Elmo Tanner
    Elmo Tanner
    William Elmo Tanner, known as Elmo Tanner was an American singer, whistler, bandleader and disc jockey, best known for his whistling on the chart-topping song “Heartaches” with the Ted Weems orchestra...

     toured with the Ted Weems
    Ted Weems
    Wilfred Theodore Weems was an American bandleader and musician. Weems' work in music was recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.- Biography :...

     Orchestra and whistled in "Heart Aches" and "The High and the Mighty".
  • Brother Bones
    Brother Bones
    Brother Bones was an American whistling and bone playing recording artist from Montgomery, Alabama. Born Freeman Davis, his late 1940s recording of the 1925 standard "Sweet Georgia Brown," became internationally famous after being adopted as the theme song of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball...

     1903-1974, had a big hit with "Sweet Georgia Brown
    Sweet Georgia Brown
    "Sweet Georgia Brown" is a jazz standard and pop tune written in 1925 by Ben Bernie and Maceo Pinkard and Kenneth Casey .The tune was first recorded on March 19, 1925 by bandleader Ben Bernie, resulting in a five-week No. 1 for Ben Bernie and his Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra...

    " which is still used as the warm up music of the Harlem Globetrotters
    Harlem Globetrotters
    The Harlem Globetrotters are an exhibition basketball team that combines athleticism, theater and comedy. The executive offices for the team are currently in downtown Phoenix, Arizona; the team is owned by Shamrock Holdings, which oversees the various investments of the Roy E. Disney family.Over...

  • I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman
    I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman
    "I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman" was a hit single in 1967 composed by Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway.  It was a novelty record, being performed mostly by whistling. This was credited to Whistling Jack Smith and Billy Moeller appeared under this name, though the whistling was really performed by John...

     by Whistling Jack Smith was a popular 1967 novelty song featuring whistling.
  • Andy Offutt Irwin
    Andy Offutt Irwin
    Andy Offutt Irwin is an American storyteller, arts educator, singer-songwriter and humorist. Born and raised in Covington, Georgia, a small town outside of Atlanta, Irwin began his career in 1984 with an improvisational comedy troupe at Walt Disney World. After five years he shifted to performing...

    , storyteller
    Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, images and sounds, often by improvisation or embellishment. Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and in order to instill moral values...

    , singer-songwriter
    Singer-songwriters are musicians who write, compose and sing their own musical material including lyrics and melodies. As opposed to contemporary popular music singers who write their own songs, the term singer-songwriter describes a distinct form of artistry, closely associated with the...

    , and humorist, is able to whistle on both inhalation and exhalation, allowing him to whistle without appearing to take a breath for a minute and a half. Irwin whistling can be heard on his solo performances and albums, but also in appearances with the chamber music
    Chamber music
    Chamber music is a form of classical music, written for a small group of instruments which traditionally could be accommodated in a palace chamber. Most broadly, it includes any art music that is performed by a small number of performers with one performer to a part...

     group Kandinsky Trio.
  • Roy Orbison
    Roy Orbison
    Roy Kelton Orbison was an American singer-songwriter, well known for his distinctive, powerful voice, complex compositions, and dark emotional ballads. Orbison grew up in Texas and began singing in a rockabilly/country & western band in high school until he was signed by Sun Records in Memphis...

     on "Here Comes the Rain, Baby" from his 1967 album Cry Softly Lonely One
    Cry Softly Lonely One
    Cry Softly Lonely One is a music album recorded by Roy Orbison for MGM Records. The album was released in October 1967.-Track listing:All tracks composed by Roy Orbison and Bill Dees, except where indicatedSide one#"She"#"Communication Breakdown"...

  • John Lennon
    John Lennon
    John Winston Lennon, MBE was an English musician and singer-songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music...

     in his song "Jealous Guy
    Jealous Guy
    "Jealous Guy" is a song written and performed by John Lennon which first appeared on his 1971 album Imagine. It is one of the most commonly covered Lennon songs, with at least ninety-two recorded cover versions, the most notable being Roxy Music's version, which reached number one in several...

    " from the album Imagine
    Imagine (album)
    Imagine is the second album by John Lennon. Recorded and released in 1971, the album tended toward songs that were gentler, more commercial and less avant-garde than those on his critically acclaimed previous album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. The album is considered the most popular of his works...


See also

  • Irish whistling champions
  • Mouth music
    Mouth music
    Mouth music may refer to:* Puirt a beul, a Scottish traditional music style* Mouth Music , a band who sings in that style....

  • Puccalo
    Puccalo is the term used for the highest level of human oral mouth whistling. The term is derived from combining the words "pucker" and "piccolo" and it refers to a level of skill and talent in human whistling which produces notes and tones that are so clear and precise, they remind the listener...

  • Silbo Gomero language
  • Slide whistle
    Slide whistle
    A slide whistle is a wind instrument consisting of a fipple like a recorder's and a tube with a piston in it. Thus it has an air reed like some woodwinds, but varies the pitch with a slide. The construction is rather like a bicycle pump...

  • Tin whistle
    Tin whistle
    The tin whistle, also called the penny whistle, English Flageolet, Scottish penny whistle, Tin Flageolet, Irish whistle and Clarke London Flageolet is a simple six-holed woodwind instrument. It is an end blown fipple flute, putting it in the same category as the recorder, American Indian flute, and...

  • Wolf-whistling
    Wolf-whistling or finger whistling is a type of whistling in which fingers are inserted in the mouth to produce a louder and more penetrating tone....

  • Whistle register
    Whistle register
    The whistle register is the highest register of the human voice, lying above the modal register and falsetto register...

  • Whistled language
    Whistled language
    Whistled languages use whistling to emulate speech and facilitate communication. A whistled language is a system of whistled communication which allows fluent whistlers to transmit and comprehend a potentially unlimited number of messages over long distances...

Ilse Werner whistled on many of her records in the 1930s and 1940s.

See - http://www.halfhearteddude.com/tag/ilse-werner/

External links

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