Thursday, January 23, 2014

#5: ingressive breathing as speech

so...this one may sound a little odd to those of you who have not visited sweden or have never had a conversation with a swede, but it is a thing: ingressive breathing, or ingressive sound, as speech. it is also known less formally as that weird breathing-in thing that swedes do while talking, and i love it. let me explain...

say you are at a store, trying to buy a dress. you are standing outside the fitting room at the 3-way mirror and you ask a fellow shopper if it looks alright...and you hear a sharp intake of breath, then something emotionless like, "yes, it is good." that's all. your first response would be "did i scare her?" then "what the hell was that?" followed by, "that was weird...". you probably wouldn't even hear the "yes, it is good" because you're too busy processing the surprised-sounding breathing-in thing. and you probably wouldn't buy the dress.

it took me weeks to realize that that surprised-sounding breathing-in thing means "yes." it is an acknowledgement of agreement; it's emphasis can be determined by how big of an ingressive breath the speaker takes and if extra sound is added while breathing in. as a non-native ingressive sound maker, it sounds to me like i've just unintentionally terrified someone. when i was walking through almgren's silk mill in södermalm, i overheard a group of three (one man, two women in their late 50s or so) from northern sweden (i asked) who were talking about the mill and its attributes, and i swear half their conversation was made up of non-words--ingressive breathings with added sounds and "ah"s. i have no clue what they were talking about, but from what i've learned it sounded positive.

i have come to learn to love the ingressive breath as speech, and if i'm lucky my friends camilla (swede) and jette (dane--they do it to) will let me record them speaking so everyone can hear it. it is beautiful, and it is my #5 to-be-missed thing about sweden.

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