The Sucking Continues

Oct. 8 - [UPDATE: Molli's naming saga is included in today's New York Times! Or see Moron Abroad for screen captures.]

First of all, it appears Danish men do do the Danish suck. While I still haven't seen it for myself, I had several women in my Studieskolen class tell me that their husbands did it, and I also received an email that included the following:

I have caught my husband doing it as well.

Here's the story: I first noticed this sucking noise a few months back when we were at his parents house in [southern Fyn] one weekend. The first person I noticed doing it was my mother-in-law. After that weekend, I noticed my husband doing it more and more, and he has a tendency to particularly do it when on the phone with his mother. I think in his case, he is mimicing his mother—which of course is a common unconscious way of empathizing with whomever you're talking with. She's a big sucker, so I guess it's just rubbing off on him.

So men do make these suck noises, but I do believe that it's much more common in women. (There's a joke there somewhere.)

And another email (the writer is speaking of herself and her husband, not using the imperial we):

And yes, we have heard men do it as well as women. We have always found it hilarious whenever we hear it, and take the mickey between us later... Seems they particularly use it as a sigh of resignation?

I don't know what "taking a mickey" means, but the sigh-of-resignation theory is interesting. Poland's theory, echoed by the first correspondent above, is that it's a sigh of empathy. But I think a couple of things may be getting mixed up here.

There is first of all the Danish suck—that sharp, quick intake of air that I compared to a hardcore stoner sipping the last little hit off a joint, and which only seems to occur when the speaker is about to say ja. (Sometimes the ja is omitted, and one is left to interpret the meaning and significance of the unaccompanied suck.)

There is also an "out-going ja," in which the intake of air isn't audible but the ja itself is released with an equally quick, equally sharp exhalation of air—as though the stoner from the above example were trying to say "yes" without letting out any more than the absolute minimum of THC-enhanced air in his or her lungs. (You can try this at home by saying ja without using your vocal chords—just expel a burst of air from your lungs and form it into a ja (or "yeah") on its way out.) I first noticed the "out-going ja" on a "Learn Danish" CD that I bought a couple of years ago on a visit to Copenhagen. It's much, much more prevalent than the Danish Suck.

I think the second emailer's point about a "sigh of resignation" sounds like a reference to the "out-going ja." I think it's important not to get these phenomena confused. Since I'm apparently becoming the world's foremost authority on the Danish Suck, I think it's important that I at least pretend to observe the scientific method.

Another correspondent, an American of Norwegian heritage who's been married to a Dane and lived in Denmark, makes a generational note:

My heritage is Norwegian and I spent some time in Norway and just so you know, they also suck, big time.

I think maybe though that it is more prevelant in the 55 and over generation. Don't quote me on that. [Sorry.] Just my experience. However, it still filters its way through to some of the younger generation. I think I also observed more women doing it.

The same correspondent recounts having taken the subject up with Danes while she lived here. She says that those who were willing to acknowledge the Danish suck compared it to Americans' habit of filling empty conversational space with sounds like "mm-hm," "uh-huh," "yahhhh," and so on. These American sounds, she was told, demonstrated Americans' impatience. The Danish suck, on the other hand, was a sign of intent listening. So we're back to empathy again.

The generational point is also interesting. On reflection, I think I've most often heard the Danish Suck from Danes of fifty years of age or older. I've definitely heard it from younger Danes, as well, but as this third correspondent suggested, it does seem to be more prominent among older Danes.

Trine just wondered aloud if the "outgoing ja," which she overheard me practicing as I tried to describe how to reproduce the sound at home, was intended to communicate thought—the equivalent of saying, in English, "well, yeah." Which often means, "I'm not entirely confident, but I've given it some thought, and upon reflection I suppose I'd have to say yes."

There'll be more on this in the days and weeks ahead. Thanks to everyone who's written in so far, and let me remind everyone else that I'm still eager to hear from as many people as possible on this peculiar topic. Together I'm sure we can unravel the mystery of the Danish Suck.

(Although maybe I ought to call it the Scandinavian Suck, as one of those emailers suggested.)


It looks like Molli Malou is about to lose her title as the most (English-language) chronicled baby in Denmark—the next big thing is on its way.

The news isn't official yet—so far it's all gossip. I'm sure there'll be a royal press conference soon enough—and from that point forward, I doubt we'll hear about much of anything else from the Danish media. After all, the little bit of replicating DNA in Mary's womb will someday be the king or queen of Denmark.

Molli's only claim to fame is that she's the first "Molli" in Danish history. That's kind of cool, but it's not the kind of thing they give you castles and palaces for.

* * *

In 1964, backed by a unanimous congress, President Johnson proclaimed October 9th "Leif Ericson Day." Many people don't even know who Leif Ericson was. (He was Leif Eriksson and sometimes Leiv Eiriksson.)

The day after Leif Ericson Day in 1965, Yale University astonished the world with its Vinland Map, a 1440 transcription of a map believed to have been originally drawn by Ericson himself (or possibly Eriksson, but certainly not Eiriksson) around 1000 A.D., and which appeared to depict parts of Canada. Just a few years ago, more evidence supporting the authenticity of the map was revealed, lending further support to the conclusion that there were Vikings in North America five centuries before Columbus soiled his first diaper.

This is an exciting development, because it will almost certainly necessitate the development of Viking reservations and the establishment of Viking-run casinos.

Still more exciting are recent scientific findings that suggest caucasians may have existed in North America prior to being displaced by the so-called native-Americans who were later visited by Vikings prior to being utterly displaced by still more caucasians.

But this is also deeply troubling, because there was probably someone here before those original caucasians.

In the interests of fairness, I think every American should be endowed with their own casino.

* * *

On October 9, 1776, a group of Spanish Missionaries settled what is today San Francisco. Their arrival displaced a small Native American population and therefore came to be known as the "missionary imposition."

Birthdays and Holidays

October 8 is the birthday of Matt Damon (1970), Sigourney Weaver (1949), Chevy Chase (1943), Jesse Jackson (1941), and Juan Peron (1895).

The 9th is the birthday of Jackson Browne (1948) and John Lennon (1940).

October 10 is the birthday of Brett Favre (1969), Tanya Tucker (1958), David Lee Roth (1955), Ben Vereen (1946), Harold Pinter (1930), Thelonious Monk (1917), Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1924), Helen Hayes (1900), Giuseppe Verdi (1813), and Henry Cavendish (1731).

The 8th is Navy Day in Peru.

Besides being Leif Ericson Day, the 9th is also National Coming Out Day in the U.S., Independence of Guyaquil Day in Ecuador, and Independence Day in Uganda.

Leif Erikson Day is also celebrated on the 9th in Iceland.

October 10 is also Alexis Kivi's Birthday, which happens to be a national holiday in Finland, and Double Ten Day in China and Taiwan, which presumably has something to do with the aforementioned revolution.

Enjoy the weekend!

2004, The Moron's Almanac™

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