Sigh language

From io9 last week, “Every language needs its, like, filler words”:

io9 - American Sigh Language typo

“Sigh language” is a lovely idea; as typos go it is unusually appealing. Kelly (@potterarchy) on Twitter suggested in jest that io9 may have been referring to this “sigh-off” between actors on the UK TV show Never Mind the Buzzcocks:

A sigh language isn’t even very far-fetched, given that some languages have channels of communication that use whistling and humming. Think of the subtle shades of exasperation, tedium, relief, exhaustion and wistful longing that can be conveyed with a well-shaped sigh.

It seems the sort of thing a science fiction writer might already have described – with neighbouring populations conversing through sniffs, yawns, gurgles, and what have you – but nothing springs to mind.



6 Responses to Sigh language

  1. Jo says:

    Ah, yes. See Slim Gaillard, Sighing Boogie:

  2. wisewebwoman says:

    Your post reminded me of Victor Borge, have you heard of him? I saw him perform quite a number of times.
    And his phonetic pronunciation:


  3. Stan says:

    Jo: That’s terrific, thank you. I like Slim Gaillard but didn’t know that song. (He compiled his own “vout-o-reenee” jive dictionary back in the day.)

    WWW: I have; it’s a very funny performance, but I never had the pleasure of seeing him live. Someone mentioned that video in a comment a couple of weeks ago, too.

  4. alexmccrae1546 says:


    Late last night (I’m guessing around 3:00 AM… technically early morn), I was awakened by the mellifluous gurgles, and whistles of a love-struck male Northern Mockingbird, heartily serenading his mate.

    This virtuoso solo performance went on, none-stop, for at least 15 minutes. Rather than be annoyed w/ this impromptu ‘call of nature’, I was riveted to every melodious trill, serial repetition of notes, and subtle shift in octaves.

    So this morning I was delighted to hear (and watch) your attached video of the whistling islanders of El Gomera in the Canaries, and couldn’t help but see an uncanny ‘musical’ kinship with the melodious chortles and trills of my early morning mockingbird’s courting serenade, and the beautiful intonations of these Gomerian whistlers. Especially in that lovely flowing whistling passage that closes out the piece.

    It was very heartening to see that their long whistling tradition was being officially maintained w/ the youth of the island, through regular classes in this very unique communicative form.

    And to have El Gomera designated as a World Heritage Site, largely due to its long whistling tradition, was very special, indeed.

    By-the-by, I’m a fairly decent ‘conventional’ whistler, and enjoy casual whistling. But for the life of me, I could not even get a single decent note out of my mouth in trying to simulate the Gomerian style of whistling. (The inserted finger just seemed to jam up the whole works. HA!)

    I did notice that one older village woman cupped, or curled her tongue while whistling, which for me would be as hard as wiggling my ears.

    Ahha! Maybe that’s their secret?

  5. […] “Sigh Language” on Stan Carey’s blog, Sentence First. […]

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