I can’t help myself

Sneezing is an involuntary act.

Supposedly closely related to orgasm.

Other involuntary acts include

¬¬ scratching (sometimes)

¬¬ shaking a leg

¬¬ shivering

¬¬ yawning

¬¬ coughing

¬¬ blinking

¬¬ shuddering (with fright or disgust)

¬¬ twitching

¬¬ leaping backwards/upwards/sideways in fright or alarm

¬¬ licking your lips

¬¬ turning your head when startled

¬¬ blinking (again)

¬¬ snuffling (?)

¬¬ falling over (?)

¬¬ stumbling (???)

All of these involve some kind of sudden movement, or series of movements, usually repeated quickly.

We can add to the list

¬¬ trembling

¬¬ screaming

¬¬ vomiting

¬¬ breathing

Breathing is special because it has many modes, and can have a slow rhythm. Indeed, it has rhythm, whereas many of the other actions listed could best be described as arhythmic. Where they are repetitive, the repetition is irregular, or so fast as to be effectively indiscernible. They might, as it were, ‘decay’ into rhythm. Breathing is also different from the others in that it shifts in and out of conscious control, and so may need to be considered as a special case


¬¬ starting (as in, ‘startled’; related to ‘start’, as in ‘begin’)

‘Starting’ might be the underlying trope for many of these (shuddering, jumping in fright &c)

Back to the idea of rhythm

The spider drops on me  as I walk up the darkened stairwell. Carrying my expensive handmade bike over my shoulder, I am unable to run or faint. Instead, I kind of ‘swallow’ the shudder and lets it out as a series of guttural screams, ie, I bark: OOFOOFOOFOOF OOF OOF UF UF UF U U U U (or something like that.)

Note how the initial, rapidly repeated OOFOOFs slow down, die away.


Before we go much further with this discussion, remember that we must discuss yawning, since it, at least at first blush (another involuntary action), seems to be different from the other actions.

Yawning, too, unlike many of the other actions (tho like blushing), can generate yawning in others. It doesn’t die away in like fashion.

Is that true?

Consider: barking

I’ve done my fair share of barking (see above).

For instance sudden spider manifestations often have often led me to bark.

¬¬ Fifteen years old: I push open the fly wire, on my way to walking out the front door. Spider drops. There I am leaping about the carport barking, OOF OOF OOF OOF OOF OOF. And so on. Accompanied by vigorous starting and shuddering. Loud barking. Enough to bring out the neighbors.

¬¬ Not only spiders: people walking into my room when I didn’t expect them, especially if I was asleep: vigorous barking.



The vowel which I’ve chosen to represent here by OO and U in reality is a ‘schwa’—an indeterminate vowel that can represent any of the alphabet’s vowel symbols if you don’t articulate them.

It’s the ‘u’ in ‘the’ when you don’t pronounce it ‘thee’: Ə.

It’s what happens when you vocalise without interrupting your breath with some sort of stoppage or shaping your mouth in any particular way. An excited grunt.

Back in the room

Equally often, perhaps more often, if someone entered my room when I was asleep and not expecting them, I would, still asleep, often attack them.

Sometimes with, sometimes without barking accompaniment.

Sometimes with a long scream:



I had, I was told, an overdeveloped startle reflex. A propensity for homicide, or just attack.

I never slept deep deep, because I was always ready for monsters.

Starting again

Starting is interesting. A sudden compulsion to movement.

¬¬ a tick

¬¬ an itch

¬¬ a shiver

¬¬ a shake

¬¬ a scream

¬¬ a grunt

¬¬ a groan

¬¬ a yawn

¬¬ a tremble

¬¬ a catch in the throat

Except for groaning & yawning, they’re consonants. An interruption to flow.

The movement of the tongue against the roof of the mouth, the lips smacking together, the oesophagus clamping shut. But then releasing.

Tense, relax, tense, relax, tense, relax, tense ¬¬

Reallyreallyreallyreallyreally fastfafafafafafafafafafafafafafafafffafafafffafafaffffafaafaaffafafaafafaafafafaaaaaast t t t tt t t t t t t t t t

We’re in a doze a snooze a hum or on a long winding road. We see a thing flickering in the corner of our eye. And start ∆