Wednesday, July 03, 2002

One of the oddest things to get used to here in Sweden is that instead of the vague affirmative vocalization we like to use in English - "mmm-hmmm" - Swedes show you they agree with you by a sharp intake of breath, as that red-haired Viking chick Gale Storm has noted.

The first time it happens is always a shock - you can't help wondering if the person who just sucked in some air could in fact be having a kind of minor heart attack. Or wondering if that person has some new tic you haven't seen before. Or even wondering if you are hearing things. Even after a couple of months hearing it, this Swedish idiosyncrasy remains disconcerting and distracting.

The question is, if you were really having a heart attack and breathing in sharp little gasps, would a Swede think that you were simply a terribly agreeable fellow?

The Swedish word for the day is ja. It means yes

- by Francis S.

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