Pandiculation is the act of yawning. I’ve always found it embarrassing. I’ll be talking to someone and suddenly find myself yawning. That’s when the guy will say, “I’m not boring you, am I?” Here’s my response: “Not at all. People yawn when the pressure in their ears differs from the outside pressure, or from the partial collapse of the air sacs in their lungs, prompting the brain to make them yawn, thus getting more oxygen into the lungs.”
“OK, Dick, now you’re boring me.”
My cat always yawns when she sees me (your pets do the same thing to you, don’t they? Please tell me they do). When I used to get undressed with my dog in the room, he’d take a look, and then he’d yawn. I tried not to take it personally.
My wife doesn’t yawn much, which I thought was evidence of what a snappy conversationalist I am, but at times she exhibits paralinguistic respiration — meaning she sighs audibly. Unlike most cinema reviewers who employ either the thumbs-up or five-star criteria, Mary Ellen practices the sigh standard, exhibited most often when I drag her to a film she doesn’t want to see. Years ago, at an Arnold Schwarzenegger flick, she sighed so many times the man next to us thought she was in cardiac arrest and called 911.
Unlike a sigh, a yawn is involuntary. I was at a wedding and I desperately tried to suppress a yawn to not appear rude or uninterested. My face got all twisted and scrunched, but I managed to successfully incorporate the words “I do” into my pandiculation. Even the minister was impressed.
Scientists studied research volunteers who had been deprived of sleep and were asked to read a boring news article with an ice pack on top of their head. Very few yawned. I don’t know who paid for this study, but I wish they’d instead spent that money to find a cure for my gout.
I hope you think this column was worth reading. Personally, I don’t think it’s anything to sternutate at. You can look that one up. But here’s a hint: Gesundheit!