Nose Blowing Pressures and Pronunciation

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Research about physics, phonetics, and expulsion
compiled by Bertha Vanatian, Improbable Research staff

(Image credit: Mojpe)

Pressures Generated During Nose Blowing
“Pressures Generated During Nose Blowing in Patients With Nasal Complaints and Normal Test Subjects,” Peter Clement and Hana Chovanova, Rhinology, vol. 41, no. 3, 2003, pp. 152-158.

The authors compared nasal resistance and pressures generated during breathing and nose blowing in patients with chronic sinusitis, septal deviations and a control group consisting of normal test subjects. The chronic sinusitis group generated pressures during nose blowing that were significantly higher (898 daPa for the left side and 913 daPa for the right side) than in the other two groups. The decongestion didn’t change the generated pressures very much. Pressures generated during nose blowing with both nostrils closed are much higher than pressures generated during nose blowing with one nostril open.

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Words for the Nose Blowing Sound
“On Words Formed From The Roots Smu and Snu Imitative of Sounds Made by Breathing or Blowing Through the Nose,” Hensleigh Wedgwood, Proceedings of the Philological Society, vol. 5, no. 121, April 23, 1852, pp. 165-167. (Thanks to Jean Berko Gleason for bringing this to our attention.) The author explains:

The imitation of sounds made by inhaling or exspiring strongly through the nose has given rise to a numerous class of words used as the designation of that organ, of the moisture which it secretes, or of the different functions in which it performs a prominent part; the terms in the Teutonic stock being founded for the most part on the articulation SNU, and in the Celtic and classical upon the articulation MU, or perhaps more properly SMU, with various consonantal endings.

The root is exhibited in its simplest form in the Dan. snue, to snuff or draw the breath strongly through the nose; and as there is a tendency to breathe through the nose in sleep, the term is familiarly applied, as snoozing in E., to slumbering or sleeping at irregular hours. To this form of the root also belongs the Pl.-D. snaw, the snout, the organ in which the nostrils are placed....

The guttural termination gives us Du. snocken, nocken; Isl. snokta, to sob; Lith. senoksti, to snore, to wheeze; Sw. snoka, to snuff, to scent i E, to snook, ‘to lie lurking for a thing’ (Bailey) j Lith. snukkis, a snout, muzzle....


This article is republished with permission from the January-February 2017 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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