Waiting to breathe


Apparently, we, in certain boroughs of the Maritimes, display a unique method of offering our approbation (or opprobrium, as the case may be) to those who would tell us how to think about ourselves.

Some of us tend to inhale “yep, yep” when we like what we hear. Some of us are prone to exhale “nope, nope” when we disagree with our Tim Horton coffee companions.

According to Anne Furlong, at the University of Prince Edward Island’s English department, this is. . .well. . .a real thing. It even has an official designation. As the CBC recently reported, “In linguistics, inhaling in agreement is called ingressive pulmonic speech or an ingressive particle.”
Says Professor Furlong: “Ingressive means breathing in, pulmonic refers to the lungs and a particle is a part of speech which is not necessarily a full word like cat or dog, but which is used in conversation.”

Furthermore, it seems to be a Northern European phenomenon. Again, says the good professor, “We don’t know whether it’s. . .something that is native to Celtic speakers, but we do know, however, is that there is a long overlap – hundreds of years – between the Vikings (from whom these verbal affectations are thought to have originated) and the northern people of the British Isles.

“We do know that (this patois is) widely distributed in Scotland, Northern Ireland, parts of the north of England, which is exactly where you’d expect the people from Prince Edward Island, and parts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland, to come from. . . (Prince Edward Islanders) are perfectly well aware that when they move to other parts of the world – even to other parts of Atlantic Canada – they are immediately recognized as Islanders because of the way they speak.”

Yep, yep.

Still, let’s test this theory.

If I were to propose that, henceforth, all university tuitions in New Brunswick would be waived for people earning less than $50,000 a year, what would you say?

Yep, yep, (take a big breath).

If, however, I were to stipulate that free higher education comes with a cost – say, another two points on your annual income tax and a bit more on the provincial portion of the HST – how would you emote?

Nope, nope, (exhale at your leisure).

Good, now we’re getting somewhere.

Does clean wind energy in this province, which possesses some of the finest, most reliable breezes in the world, make sense?


Do you want to live anywhere near a turbine, which might reduce your property values because somebody says it will?


Should your kids learn how to read, write and speak both French and English in Canada’s only officially bilingual province?


Should you spend your time ensuring that public officials work hard to do just that?


And what about early childhood education in New Brunswick? The statistics say that a good start in life breeds better citizens and munificent economic opportunities down the road. Does this sound good?


On the other hand, are you willing to put in the hours, the effort, required to keep this issue before the eyes of those who we elect to protect and preserve our best interests?


Yep, yep.

Nope, nope.

The pendulum swings daily, hourly, minute-by-minute.

All the while we wait to inhale, wait to exhale.

This is, in fact, our very own version of what Professor Furlong describes as “ingressive pulmonic speech”. Apparently, we inherited it, as we have so many nasty habits of history in this region.

Breathe people and then bark like the glorious citizens you are.

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