What is this noise I can make
August 8, 2019 10:21 PM   Subscribe

There’s this grunting noise I can make with my mouth. I’m unaware of anyone else who can make it -though there are surely other people out there who can- and I’m not actually sure how I make the noise. Can you explain what exactly I’m doing to make this sound, and ideally provide a link to a more detailed description elsewhere? All details within.

Ok, so the noise is kind of a grunt, kind of a snort, and kind of a burp or rattle, but not actually any of these things. (“Rattle” may be the best descriptor.) To produce it, I keep my mouth closed and… vibrate?… the roof of my mouth. There’s a sensation that starts near the roof / back of the mouth and feels like it’s traveling vaguely forwards along the mouth. It has a kind of oscillation, presumably made by the action that produces the sound. The oscillation can be sped up, or slowed down, but it cannot be maintained indefinitely. The sound must come to an end, after at most about a second or two.

The action that I’m doing with the roof of my mouth has some sort of “direction”.
  • If I do it “back” with my lips closed, I get the sound.
  • If I do “forwards” with my lips closed, I get a tiny, high pitched click or squeak, if anything
  • If I do it “back” with my lips open, I get a hollower version of the sound, and the back of my mouth feels bad.
  • If I do it “forwards” with my lips open, I get a khkhkhkh motor boat sound, and the roof of my mouth feels kind of scratched.
Does this sound have a name? Do you have any idea what, exactly, I’m doing with the roof of my mouth? Is it the roof my mouth? If not, what mouth part might it be?
posted by Going To Maine to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Soft palate, maybe? I can make a kind of rumbling/croaky sound with mine if I keep my mouth closed. It feels kind of like air is moving between my nasal area and mouth and it vibrates something in the soft palate area during the process.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 10:48 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


Guttural R?
posted by acidnova at 11:18 PM on August 8


I do it too. I know exactly what you mean. I do it in order to scratch the roof of my mouth/back of the throat when it is itchy. I think the very back of my tongue is also involved, but it's kind of hard to feel what is going on there.

People look at me really weirdly when I do it or worry that I'm going to vomit, so I don't do it in public any more. I did as a kid though.
posted by lollusc at 1:05 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


Is this what I refer to as "The Grudge sound"?
posted by Gordafarin at 2:48 AM on August 9


To produce it, I keep my mouth closed and… vibrate?… the roof of my mouth.

Via air pressure? Muscle movement? Sheer will?
posted by STFUDonnie at 3:19 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


I can do it too! :) I use the tongue to trap a bubble of air across my soft palate and then "braaap" the air backwards into my throat. Like an oink.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:08 AM on August 9


I think you're vibrating your epiglottis.
posted by slkinsey at 7:06 AM on August 9


I recognize this! I hadn't done it in years, but it was a fascinating weird ability when I was a kid. I don't know what it is exactly or what it's called, but here is some info I can contribute.

I think you're vibrating your uvula, as seen in this photo.

I think it is caused by forcing air from your mouth up into your nasal cavity. When I do it, I am contracting some muscles under my tongue and making my mouth smaller. The air goes the only place it can with my mouth closed. I tried doing it while plugging my nose with my lungs full, and it barely works.

It's similar but not exactly the same as inhaling sharply to try and clear mucus from the back of my nasal cavity (which can be done in reverse by exhaling).

See also maybe? Uvular Trill
posted by counterfeitfake at 8:00 AM on August 9


If it's what I think it is, I can do this too. Kind of an oink. Is it really hard to do the "forward" one if you hold your nose?
posted by notsnot at 8:08 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


I do it in order to scratch the roof of my mouth/back of the throat when it is itchy.

Both my sister and I can do this, but no one else in my family. They all call it our "hamster call."

Mechanistically, we're making two separate pockets of air in our mouth and nasopharynx, separated by the flexed, elevated soft palate (via the levator veli palatini). Like a piston, gently flexing the tongue creates negative pressure in the enclosed mouth cavity, and then gently letting air in through the small gap opened between the soft palate and the back of the throat causes the rear part of the palate (and everything around it) to vibrate.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:47 AM on August 9 [3 favorites]


Thanks for all the helpful responses!

Is this what I refer to as “The Grudge sound”?

Similar, yes!

If it’s what I think it is, I can do this too. Kind of an oink. Is it really hard to do the “forward” one if you hold your nose?

Yes, entirely impossible! (I end up popping my ears, sometimes.) The backwards one just become a bit more basso.

See also maybe? Uvular Trill

So this is very close, but I would say that the linked “Voiceless Uvular Trill” and the related “Voiceless Uvular Fricative” are almost dead-ringers for a soft version of the forward sound, and probably it. So I don’t know if there’s some kind of “inverse voiceless uvular fricative”, but that would be pretty dang close. For the moment I think that’s the one.

Mechanistically, we're making two separate pockets of air in our mouth and nasopharynx, separated by the flexed, elevated soft palate (via the levator veli palatini). Like a piston, gently flexing the tongue creates negative pressure in the enclosed mouth cavity, and then gently letting air in through the small gap opened between the soft palate and the back of the throat causes the rear part of the palate (and everything around it) to vibrate.

This is super detailed and could well be it! But I can still make the sound even when keeping my tongue flat on the floor of my mouth. Perhaps it’s flexing somewhere else along its length? I’m also just a little bit wary because when I hear the sound described as a “hamster call” that makes me think it’s high pitched - probably a silly prior- and this sound is pretty croaking and low.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:23 PM on August 15


Yeah it's definitely flexing right at the back near the tongue root/uvular. It's not a uvular trill (I'm a linguist; I know those), but it's related in that the vibrations are happening right back there.
posted by lollusc at 9:04 PM on August 16


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