Saturday, August 29, 2009

Singing in Swedish

In Swedish, the most common word for “Hello” is “Hej” which is pronounced more or less “Hay”. There is an interesting history to this word posted here about why this greeting was not “the greeting of the masses” until the 1970s. Frequently people repeat it twice: “Hej Hej”. The same website seems to indicate that this implies excitement to see someone (Although the woman at the NORDITA cafeteria seems to use “Hej Hej” for every single customer, and she can’t possibly be excited about every single one).

After a day or two of figuring out that “Hej Hej” is actually a greeting, I started noticing that a lot of people seem to sing it more than say it. Of course not everyone does it the same way, but I’ve heard an awful lot of people who put the second “Hej” almost exactly a major third below the first “Hej”. The Swedish language does have a bit of a sing-song quality to it, but I don’t really detect any other consistent musical intervals in the Language except for when people say hello.

Geek interlude: a major third is a frequency ratio of 5/4=1.25 on a natural scale but is a frequency ratio of the cube root of 2 (1.2599..) on an equally tempered scale.

Speaking of Swedes and music: yes indeed, I have heard a lot of ABBA in Stockholm (Hey, come-on, admit it, you love them too). I was hoping to hear some Ace of Base and the Cardigans too (Yes, they are both Swedish.)

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