After you get over the initial fear, loathing and ‘stop poking at my ego-balloon’ sensivity of the first few months of culture shock, it’s amazing how many little things you begin to take in stride, things that friends or family would pick up on instantly if they were to come and visit.
One that struck me as we were lazing around watching one of the infinitude of ‘variety’ shows on Korean TV last night (all of the major networks stream on the net live or on demand, by the way, if you’re curious and have a fast net connection : the big three : MBC, KBS, SBS. Even without being able to read Korean, you should be able to find the streams pretty easily…) is the ‘schoolgirl howl’.
This is a sound, that, whiskey-ravaged as I am, I cannot for the life of me reproduce. It is reminiscent of the kind of pre-orgasmic squeals that teenyboppers in the early 60’s would emit when faced with the Beatles, or Elvis, and I suppose, in a deliberately more chaste fashion, that’s what it’s modelled on. It sounds a bit like a very high-pitched : ‘ooo-WOOOO-OOoo!”. The thing is, though, that it’s delivered with clockwork regularity every 10 or 15 seconds, when anyone does or says anything even remotely interesting.
“Oh my goodness I am uncontrollably excited in a non-sexual fashion by the fact that that dog just jumped through a hoop!” is the message, it would seem.
To add an extra layer of weirdness (which I almost never notice these days, having become accustomed to it), this schoolgirl howl is also omnipresent on prerecorded segments! It would seem that they have invented, parallel to the cretinous laughtrack machines in the West, Schoolgirl Howl Machines here (good name for a band!). I imagine the guy in the booth, bored look on his face, cigarette dangling from his lip, pushing the lever for another howl, and twiddling a knob if it needs an extra bit of oomph because the current howl-ee is a member of g.o.d or something.
Practice your schoolgirl howls here…