LINGUISTIC BRIEFING
Still Sucking

Oct. 7 - I didn't get as much response as I'd hoped to yesterday's almanac about the Danish sucking phenomenon, but some interesting points were raised (and I'm still hoping to hear from more of you).

Over in the comments of Moron Abroad, for example, Tracey says that Swedes do it, and when it's pointed out to them they're actually capable of admitting it.

In my inbox, a correspondent informs me that he observed the same phenomenon while living here in the 70s, but says he only observed it in women. This got me reflecting on my own data. I have to acknowledge that I, too, have only seen women doing it.

But, the same correspondent continues:

While performing [a] wedding in Sicily, I had a chance to talk with several Danish wedding guests. None of them recognized the phenomenon.

My Danish is very weak, and so I spoke very little Danish with the Danes at the wedding. I mostly spoke English with the Danes.

I didn't hear any Danes using the sucking sound, and I was thinking just now that Danes may not carry this habit through to another language.

This seems to be further evidence that the sharp little intake of air I've been referring to as "the Danish suck" may be inextricably associated with the Danish "ja."

Which puts me in the awkward spot of having to report that it may only be Danish women that suck, and only when they're saying "yes." It's beginning to look less like a curious philological factoid and more like a selling point for the Danish Board of Tourism.

Another correspondent suggests the phenomenon may not be limited to Denmark:

...one day my husband says to me "your [uncle] and your Grandma both do that funny ahh! noise," (sucking in air sharply with vocal chords slightly engaged).

I should explain that I'm talking about my father's mother and my mother's brother-in-law who hardly know each other so it is something they've developed separately.

At the time I'm sure I made the same face that Trine did when you asked her about the sucking noise.

Then around rolled the good old Aussie Christmas, stinking hot day, bbq at the beach house, 32 family and friends for lunch.

Nice day for a surf, aye [uncle]?

And there it was...

"Ahh!"

The prawns are yummy.

"Ahh!"

Weather's been hot, hasn't it, Grandma?

And again...

"Ahh!"

Now [uncle] and Grandma are both people who don't like large crowded family affairs. They would rather be off doing something crafty (knitting, nailing things together) by themselves.

I've translated "Ahh!" to mean "I'd really rather not be here but I'm making a huge effort because I know this family event is important."

So its meaning is a bit different to the Danish sucking noise but there it is.

There it is indeed.

Further contributions to the study of this important aspect of Danish culture are welcome.

* * *

The Danish government is seriously considering the seizure of territory for oil:

Natural riches may lie waiting to be discovered under the North Pole—and Denmark is hoping to grab its share by securing legal ownership of the area

And as long as I'm skimming the Danish news, how about this...

According to a recent report in the Copenhagen Post, Denmark's right-wing Christians have expressed their desire to see all Danes to convert to a fundamentalist strain of Christianity. Asked to repudiate the use of violence to achieve their objectives, they changed the subject.

The outrage is... non-existent. That's because it wasn't Christians, but a Muslim that made those remarks. Specifically, it was erstwhile Danish Gitmo prisoner Slimane Hadj Abderrahmane, who said the following in an an interview soon to be broadcast (or recently to have been broadcast) on the Arab news channel Al Alam News:

Abderrahmane: "Yes, I want all Danes to convert to Islam and go to paradise."

Al Alam: "How will you do that?"

Abderrahmane: "By preaching."

Al Alam: "And not through jihad?"

Abderrahmane: "When I left Denmark in 2001 to go to Chechnya, it was not my intention ever to return."

How conspicuous is that evasion?

Al Alam: "Will you stay in Denmark?"

Abderrahmane: "Only God knows."

Al Alam: "You've surrendered your passport. Does that mean you're staying?"

Abderrahmane: "I'll stay for a while, but I don't know what will happen."

Al Alam: "Isn't it better to be a missionary for Islam, rather than travel?"

Abderrahmane: "Sure, as long as I'm in Denmark."

Al Alam: "Have you done it before?

Abderrahmane: "Yes, one of my friends converted three years ago."

Al Alam: "Isn't that better than going to Chechnya?"

Abderrahmane: "No, the Muslims in Chechnya are suffering. It is necessary for us to help them."

My own personal follow-up question: does "helping them" include the carrying out of missions such as those in Beslan? After all, that atrocity involved a British citizen. Why shouldn't a Dane take part in the next glorious strike against the infidels?

(For what it's worth, I'm agnostic, so I'm obviously missing an important religious angle on the gunning down of children.)

* * *

On this date in 1849 Edgar Allen Poe was found in a delirious state (Maryland) outside a Baltimore voting place (saloon). Mr. Poe was often found delirious, especially outside voting places, but this time his delirium was serious and he died.

Two years ago I complained because ESPN didn't mention the anniversary of Mr. Poe's untimely demise during the previous evening's coverage of the Baltimore Ravens game against the Cleveland Browns. (The Ravens are named for the eponymous bird of Mr. Poe's most famous poem, so it's not like it would have been such a stretch.) Last year, the Ravens had a bye at this point in the season, which struck me as a crafty way of avoiding the issue. This year the anniversary falls between Weeks 4 and 5 of the NFL schedule, meaning the commentators from each game can let the matter slide by telling themselves the guys covering the other game will get around to it.

Coincidence? I doubt Mr. Poe would have thought so.

Unless he were sober.

* * *

Today is the birthday of Yo-Yo Ma (1955), John Cougar Mellencamp (1951), Bishop Desmond Tutu (1931), R.D. Laing (1927), June Allyson (1917), and Niels Bohr (1885).

It's Cassinga Day in Namibia and World Habitat Day at the U.N.

Happy Thursday!

2004, The Moron's Almanac™

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