100 Mostly Small But Expressive Interjections

By Mark Nichol

They often seem disreputable, like sullen idlers loitering in a public thoroughfare, but they actually do a lot of hard work and are usually persnickety about the tasks to which they are put. They are interjections — one class of them, anyway: those lacking etymological origins but packed with meaning.

But how do you know how to distinguish similar ones — or spell them, for that matter? Here’s an incomplete inventory of interjections (not including variations of actual words such as yeah for yes or onomatopoeic echoes of externally produced sounds like boom):

Ack communicates disgust or dismissal.

Ah can denote positive emotions like relief or delight (generally, pronounced with a long a).

Aha signals triumph or surprise, or perhaps derision.

Ahem is employed to gain attention.

Argh, often drawn out with additional h’s, is all about frustration.

Aw can be dismissive or indicative of disappointment, or, when drawn out, expressive of sympathy or adoration.

Aye denotes agreement.

Bah is dismissive.

Blah communicates boredom or disappointment.

Blech (or bleah or bleh) implies nausea.

Boo is an exclamation to provoke fright.

Boo-hoo is imitative of crying and is derisive.

Boo-ya (with several spelling variants) is a cry of triumph.

Bwah-hah-hah (variously spelled, including mwah-hah-hah) facetiously mimics the stereotypical archvillain’s triumphant laugh.

D’oh is the spelling for the muttering accompanying Homer Simpson’s trademark head-slapping self-abuse.

Duh derides someone who seems dense.

Eek indicates an unpleasant surprise.

Eh, with a question mark, is a request for repetition or confirmation of what was just said; without, it is dismissive.

Er (sometimes erm) plays for time.

Ew denotes disgust, intensified by the addition of one or more e’s and/or w’s.

Feh (and its cousin meh) is an indication of feeling underwhelmed or disappointed.

Gak is an expression of disgust or distaste.

Ha expresses joy or surprise, or perhaps triumph.

Ha-ha (with possible redoubling) communicates laughter or derision.

Hamana-hamana, variously spelled, and duplicated as needed, implies speechless embarrassment.

Hardy-har-har, or har-har repeated as needed, communicates mock amusement.

Hee-hee is a mischievous laugh, while its variants heh and heh-heh (and so on) can have a more derisive connotation.

Hey can express surprise or exultation, or can be used to request repetition or call for attention.

Hist signals the desire for silence.

Hm, extended as needed, suggests curiosity, confusion, consternation, or skepticism.

Hmph (also hrmph or humph) indicates displeasure or indignation.

Ho-ho is expressive of mirth, or (along with its variant oh-ho) can indicate triumph of discovery.

Ho-hum signals indifference or boredom.

Hubba-hubba is the vocal equivalent of a leer.

Huh (or hunh) is a sign of disbelief, confusion, or surprise, or, with a question mark, is a request for repetition.

Hup, from the sound-off a military cadence chant, signals beginning an exerting task.

Hurrah (also hoorah, hooray, and hurray, and even huzzah) is an exclamation of triumph or happiness.

Ick signals disgust.

Lah-de-dah denotes nonchalance or dismissal, or derision about pretension.

Mm-hmm, variously spelled, is an affirmative or corroborating response.

Mmm, extended as needed, conveys palatable or palpable pleasure.

Mwah is suggestive of a kiss, often implying unctuous or exaggerated affection.

Neener-neener, often uttered in a series of three repetitions, is a taunt.

Now (often repeated “Now, now”) is uttered as an admonition.

Oh is among the most versatile of interjections. Use it to indicate comprehension or acknowledgment (or, with a question mark, a request for verification), to preface direct address (“Oh, sir!”), as a sign of approximation or example (“Oh, about three days”), or to express emotion or serves as a response to a pain or pleasure. (Ooh is a variant useful for the last two purposes.)

Oh-oh (or alternatives in which oh is followed by various words) is a warning response to something that will have negative repercussions.

Olé, with an accent mark over the e, is borrowed from Spanish and is a vocal flourish to celebrate a deft or adroit maneuver.

Ooh, with o’s repeated as needed, conveys interest or admiration, or, alternatively, disdain.

Ooh-la-la is a response to an attempt to impress or gently mocks pretension or finery.

Oops (and the jocular diminutive variation oopsie or oopsy and the variant whoops) calls attention to an error or fault.

Ouch (or ow, extended as needed) signals pain or is a response to a harsh word or action.

Oy, part of Yiddish expressions such as oy gevalt (equivalent to “Uh-oh”), is a lament of frustration, concern, or self-pity.

Pff, extended as needed, expresses disappointment, disdain, or annoyance.

Pfft, or phfft, communicates abrupt ending or departure or is a sardonic dismissal akin to pff.

Phew, or pew, communicates disgust, fatigue, or relief. (Phooey, also spelled pfui, is a signal for disgust, too, and can denote dismissal as well. PU and P.U. are also variants.)

Poof is imitative of a sudden disappearance, as if by magic.

Pooh is a contemptuous exclamation.

Pshaw denotes disbelief, disapproval, or irritation or, alternatively, communicates facetious self-consciousness.

Psst calls for quiet.

Rah, perhaps repeated, signals triumph.

Shh (extended as necessary) is an imperative for silence.

Sis boom bah is an outdated encouraging cry, most likely to be used mockingly now.

Tchah communicates annoyance.

Tsk-tsk and its even snootier variant tut-tut are condemnations or scoldings; the related sound tch is the teeth-and-tongue click of disapproval.

Ugh is an exclamation of disgust.

Uh is an expression of skepticism or a delaying tactic.

Uh-huh indicates affirmation or agreement.

Uh-oh signals concern or dismay.

Uh-uh is the sound of negation or refusal.

Um is a placeholder for a pause but also denotes skepticism.

Va-va-voom is an old-fashioned exclamation denoting admiration of physical attractiveness.

Whee is an exclamation of excitement or delight.

Whew is a variant of phew but can also express amazement.

Whoa is a call to halt or an exclamation of surprise or relief.

Whoop-de-doo and its many variants convey mocking reaction to something meant to impress.

Woo and woo-hoo (and variations like yahoo, yee-haw, and yippee) indicate excitement. (Woot, also spelled w00t among an online in-crowd, is a probably ephemeral variant.)

Wow expresses surprise.

Yay is a congratulatory exclamation. (Not to be confused with yeah, a variant of yes.)

Yikes is an expression of fear or concern, often used facetiously.

Yo-ho-ho is the traditional pirates’ refrain.

Yoo-hoo attracts attention.

Yow, or yowza, is an exclamation of surprise or conveys being impressed.

Yuck (also spelled yech or yecch) signals disgust. (Not to be confused with yuk, a laugh.)

Yum, or yummy, is a response to the taste of something delicious and, by extension, the sight of an attractive person.

Zoinks is an expression of surprise or amazement popularized by the cartoon character Shaggy, of Scooby Doo fame.

Zowie, often in combination following wowie, a variant of wow, expresses admiration or astonishment.

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137 Responses to “100 Mostly Small But Expressive Interjections”

  • David Bier

    Thanks for this – what a fun post considering there’s no actual narrative in it!

  • Cecily

    Some of these interjections are quite culturally and age specific, so if people need to be told what they mean, they should probably not be using them.

    For example, to many Brits, va-va-voom is not old-fashioned at all, but instead is firmly linked to the long-running ads that footballer Thierry Henry made for the Renault Clio.

  • Himanshu Chanda

    Whoa ! What a biiiig list. And yes this ones really great. You understand exact meaning of those interjections while reading comic strips 🙂

  • Michael

    Huzzah! Love your work Mark.

    But wouldn’t a rhotic speaker write ‘uh’ for ‘er’? Might this cause some confusion for the non-rhotic speaker who could voice the former as a, sort of, near-grunt? Or do you think most readers get by given the context?

    And yes, I agree with Cecily; writers should check that their audience is familar with the interjection. Most of these would pass muster in Australia, but a few (e.g., ‘hamana-hamana’, ‘mwah’, ‘neener-neener’, ‘zoinks’ and ‘zowie’) would be met with a blank look. But then I’m sure some local expressions would seem equally strange to others. An American friend was resident in Australia for six months before she realized ‘ta’ meant ‘thanks’ and not ‘whatever’.

  • Emma

    I have never heard “hamana-hamana” and would definitely be very confused if I were to hear anyone use it.

    You should have included “sheesh”, the exclamation of flustered annoyance.

    Also, I have never heard “feh”, but am very familiar with “its cousin”, “meh”.

    I don’t understand how “now” is an interjection, though. I always presumed it was a shortened form of sentences such as “Now, listen to what I’m saying,” where the “now” suggests that the action should happen at the present time.

  • Rebecca

    This is a fantastic list, thank you for providing it. I never knew there were so many exclamations to use. It beats using the ‘same old, same old’ exclamations.

  • Rebecca

    Oops! I meant ‘interjections’ not exclamations. I now awake yet!

  • Steve Hall

    “Ah can denote positive emotions like relief or delight (generally, pronounced with a long a).”

    I was always taught that a “long a” is the sound of a as in cake. Do you mean a lengthy a? When I write, I usually spell it “ahh,” to extend the sound.

  • Deborah H

    Cartoonist and writers everywhere are thanking you for this list, including me. In addition to “Ack!”—let’s not forget Bill the Cat’s other favorite exclamation: “Thbbft!”

  • Roberta B.

    “Aye” would fall into the category of “yes” (an actual word) in a foreign language rather than an interjection. I suppose in parts of the US it might be equivalen to “si,” depending on the foreign influences in the area over the years.

    Psst! – discrete call to attention
    Gee, geez, jeez, geewhiz – surprise, befuddlement (a polite way to avoid exclamatory profanity)

  • thebluebird11

    What a great post! I think ESL speakers will appreciate it. At my age, I have pretty much heard most, if not all of them, and of course I use some but not others (maybe I’m too old for the woot-woot thing my 18-year-old daughter sometimes does LOL).
    Along the same lines, perhaps you can do a post on different animal sounds…what I mean is, American dogs say “ruff, ruff” or “bark, bark” (or whatever). Israeli dogs say “Hahv, hahv.” What do other animals from other countries say? Do cows all over the world “moo” or “low”? Cats can mew or meow here…what about elsewhere?
    @Cecily: Please don’t take this unkindly, but I thought your remark about people not using certain expressions was a bit harsh. Live and let live, you know? Groovy list, it’s the cat’s pajamas! (Eh, those are sort of before my time, but you get my drift). We update our wardrobes and our cellphones, why not update our speech?
    @Emma: I grew up with family from Europe (Russia, Poland), and “feh” was the word. I always think “meh” sounds like a sheep!
    @Michael (Australia): Here in the US, “ta” would more likely be a shortened version of “ta-ta,” as in “goodbye.” Thanks for the head-up!

  • Cecily

    thebluebird11: I wasn’t saying that anyone unfamiliar with these expressions must not use them, but was warning that the definitions here are necessarily brief and don’t take account of the very specific ways that some of them are used (and not used) in different countries, age groups etc.

    For example, if I, as a Brit, start using “hamana-hamana” (which I had never come across till today) on the strength of this article, I will probably be met with bafflement by those around me.

  • thebluebird11

    @Cecily: What I meant was, it’s one thing to avoid an expression because of cultural issues (as in, nobody in your country/culture would get it), another entirely to say people shouldn’t use an expression because they are too old, young, unhip, etc. Still, think of this post as a chance to expand your (and your friends’) cultural horizons…You know the US is a big place, and expressions vary from coast to coast and border to border. I remember coming across the word “spendy,” (meaning expensive). That’s a west-coast word, and I live 3000 miles away on the east coast, but I thought, “what a great word!” and I adopted it. my friends now “get it.” There are many books on this subject, and I find they make great mind-expanding reading. Don’t shy away from using a word (or expression) you like just because your friends won’t get it…introduce them to it as you would introduce a new food or work of art 🙂 There’s a great big world out there!

  • Mark Nichol


    Thanks for your note; you are correct. I should have said “an extended a sound, like the doctor asks you to say when looking in your mouth.”

  • Mark Nichol


    I didn’t want to take the time in the original post to go into my criteria for inclusion and exclusion of terms in this list — trust me, there are many more interjections — but I tried to include only terms that have no literal meaning but have acquired one (or more) through conversational context: They are (with a tip of the hat to commenter Deborah H.) basically sound effects. (Though — think about it — trace any word back for enough, and it fits that description.) Now, in retrospect, for the reason you state, does not belong.

    I deliberately omitted sheesh and the like because it and many other words like it are bowdlerizations of oaths invoking God or Jesus, and hence have etymological antecedents.

    Also, my language bias as an American (more specifically, a homegrown Californian) should be obvious, but I admit that some of these terms are obscure; selecting on the basis of longevity and durability was a fine line to walk.

    My favorite interjection, which didn’t make the cut because it derives from a real word, is hella, a superlative that stands on its own and dates from the mid-1980s at the latest but as yet, to my knowledge, does not grace the pages of any printed dictionary.

  • Patrick

    In reply to Emma: “hamana-hamana” is the written version of the vocalization Jackie Gleason used as Ralph Kramden on the long-running TV show “The Honeymooners.” It was used whenever he was caught out by his long-suffering wife, Alice and could not come up with an explanation for some boneheaded thing he’d done.

    I would also like to have seen “yada-yada” from the Seinfeld series. It was used to allow the listener to fill in facts universally known, similar to “blah, blah, blah.”

  • AmaT

    Great list! Thanks for the post.

  • Michael

    If we’re talking cartoon references, then most Australians (for starters) have never heard of Bill the Cat. I’m fortunate to have been exposed to ‘Bloom County’ by an American friend. It opened my eyes to some great American humour. Bloody funny stuff! But ‘Ack!’ won’t mean much to most Aussies.

    For us, the equivalent might be the long-running New Zealand strip ‘Footrot Flats’ and The Dog’s immortal exclamation ‘Ye Gods!’

  • Michael

    Oh, and then there’s ‘struth!’ Little used these days (except by foreigners trying—and failing—to emulate the Australian vernacular), the word is derived from the Middle English exclamation ‘God’s Truth!’

  • ApK

    “I have never heard “hamana-hamana” and would definitely be very confused if I were to hear anyone use it.”

    Then you need an education in the comedic genius of the Great One.

  • thebluebird11

    @Michael: “Ye Gods” is not the equivalent of “Ack.” Bill the cat was nonverbal, unless you count “ack” as verbal, but it was more like a gagging sound he made, sort of randomly, maybe preparing to hack up a hairball, who knows LOL. I can’t find my old Bloom County comic books, but as far as I remember, the only other sound he made (except for maybe an occasional burp?) was something like “thpbffffft.”

  • Michael

    @thebluebird11: You’re quite right. I meant an equivalently well-known comic strip. Should have been clearer.

  • thebluebird11

    @Emma: I remember that sound…it sounded like “HUM-in-uh, HUM-in-uh, HUM-in-uh,” said very fast. Jackie Gleason used to do it on “The Honeymooners” (TV comedy show here back in about 1965 B.I.A.S. [before internet and satellite]), when he was caught doing something and he was fumbling for an alibi, or if he was just kind of at a loss for words…I don’t remember everything that far back, but that is pretty much the impression I have.

  • Michael


    ‘I deliberately omitted sheesh and the like because it and many other words like it are bowdlerizations of oaths invoking God or Jesus, and hence have etymological antecedents.’

    I’m confused; you omitted ‘geez’, etc., because they might be offensive? Are they really? This may be another cultural difference but I can’t imagine more than a tiny minority of Christians taking offence.

    If these words are genuinely and widely felt to be offensive by all means note them as such, but surely they shouldn’t be left out of this forum?

  • ApK

    @Michael: “I’m confused; you omitted ‘geez’, etc., because they might be offensive?”

    You’re confused. 😉 Where did you get the idea that he omitted them because they might be offensive?

    He said he omitted them because they are derived from other words, same reason he omitted “yeah” as he stated at the beginning.

  • Michael

    @ApK: OK, I’m really confused now. Doesn’t ‘bowlderization’ suggest the feeling that these words are somehow offensive?

  • ApK

    The point is they are omitted from this list because they are derived from other words, not because of the REASON they came to be derived from those other words.

  • Michael

    Righto. It was the word ‘bowlderization’ that threw me.

  • Kathryn

    Oooohhh! Thank you. I recognized “hum-in-uh hum-in-uh,” but had no idea where it came from (not allowed to watch television as child). In fact, the origins of several of them would be interesting to know–I understand the “no etymology” point, but they are all found in sources. . .

    Michael–sure, in a general sense “bowdlerization” carries negative connotations, but like ApK I read Mark’s comment, in context, as focussed on the fact that those words have identifiable etymologies. Words like “hah” and “bah” and even “aye” used to mean “yes” may be included in dictionaries, but either without etymological information, or with speculative information.

  • Kathryn

    Oops. Overkill–I was composing while you folks were getting it sorted out! Sorry.

  • thebluebird11

    @Michael: the word is “Bow-dlerization” (not BOWL-derization).
    origin is eponymous, after Thomas Bowdler (1754–1825), English editor of an expurgated edition of Shakespeare.
    sorry…perhaps this website attracts some persnickety people (like me).

  • Michael

    @thebluebird11: Go easy mate! It’s a typo! Geez louise. 🙂

    And I know what it means, hence my confusion: ‘remove material that is considered improper or offensive from (a text or account), esp. with the result that it becomes weaker or less effective.’ (Oxford Dictionary)

  • ApK

    Geesh! Not only are you right, but gosh darn it if Maeve didn’t post a link to that very term just a little while ago in the previous article comments!

    @Kathyn, not that I’m jealous or comptetitive or anything, but did you happen to notice the link to the Honeymooners clip that I posted just before thebluebird11’s response, to illustrate “hummuna hummuna?” 😉

  • Kathryn

    Oh, no! Now I’ve stepped all over EVERYONE’s toes!
    Truth is (and I blush to confess it, as a post of mine with TWO links in it is currently awaiting moderation on the bias thread), I frequently don’t follow links, especially YouTube links. I work in a small office, and sudden effusions of noise can be difficult to explain to my partner and our secretary. So, I’ll go look at it now, ‘k? And thank you AS WELL as thebluebird11.

  • Rod

    Great post it might be a good idea If you could post something about the verbs that are onomatopoeias as well, such as:
    snore, yawn, bark,sneeze and so on .

  • Emma

    Mark: I never realized that “sheesh” was derived from “Jesus”, so you’re right. Perhaps another post that addresses these etymologically-derived interjections would be nice, though, so we can become more familiar with those ones as well.

    Michael: I think I see the source of your confusion. Mark said that words like “sheesh” and “jeez” “are bowdlerizations of oaths invoking God or Jesus, and hence have etymological antecedents.” He didn’t state that they were not included because they were bowdlerizations, or that any other words that were omitted were also bowdlerizations. He said that they were not included due to the fact that they were derived from other words, and these particular words happened to be a specific type of derivative: a bowdlerization.

    Personally, I am Christian and I strongly dislike the use of the names of God and Christ as interjections, but I have little-to-no problem with words like “jeez” and “sheesh” because most of the people who use them are unaware of their etymology, since the words have been in use for a long time. However, I dislike the use of “OMG” even when the speaker insists they mean “Oh My Gosh” as most people know it to mean something different and would assume that that is what is intended.

    thebluebird11: If that’s the case, I’m much too young to know the reference. It seems that the word hasn’t persisted enough to remain familiar with my generation. Some words, though, clearly do outlive their origins; if, as others are saying, the word “ack” originates from the comic strip “Bloom County”, that would be an example, as I definitely know the interjection but only know the comic strip by name and probably wouldn’t recognize it if I saw a page. It is unfortunate that people forget about things that previous generations enjoyed, but I like that a word was able to survive from it.

  • Kathryn

    “It is unfortunate that people forget about things that previous generations enjoyed, but I like that a word was able to survive from it.”

    Am I the only one feeling a bit condescended-to? I mean, hey man, it was like groovy in the 60s and 70s when we had our own vibes, hey, wow!. . but, we were also familiar with the lingo of the 40s and 50s, including that of the beatniks. . .and GI Joe. Yes? And we did NOT have the luxury of easy access to a smorgasbord of information about the past: recent, remote, and inbetween. Agreed, it is undoubtedly nice that “Ack” has come down to us from the remote fastnesses of Bloom County; but geewhilikers, there is an incredible richesse of words that we have inherited from that and earlier eras.

    Sigh. Maybe I’m just getting old.

  • Kathryn

    And crotchety.

  • Deborah H

    Permit me to jump back into the fray: I doubt that the word “ack” began with Bill the Cat, a character from the cartoon strip Bloom County. But he certainly made it popular.

    As for the other word “Thbbft!” —I always assumed that was what a “raspberry” looked like spelled out. 🙂 And of course, blowing a raspberry certainly predates Bloom County, too.

    And for those who don’t know, “to blow a raspberry” is an act of derision, or in some cases, a signal of futility or fatigue. Context is everything.

  • Kathryn

    Excellent points, Deborah. . .and my understanding has always been that another term for a raspberry (which was the sound made when one compressed a whoopee cushion. . .which was intended to simulate a sound of biological origin, yes?) was “Bronx cheer.” Personally, I have always spelled the sound “thbpt,” but I suspect there are many variant spellings.

  • thebluebird11

    @Michael: I am so sorry, my down-under friend…I had typed into my post the word “kindly” between some brackets, meaning that I meant my little rebuke kindly, but I guess because of the brackets and HTML issues, the word didn’t show up. Which I didn’t realize til now, because I went to work, and all these emails kept coming to my phone, but I couldn’t read them, altho in the car on the way home I read…
    @kathryn’s posts, which cracked me up. Thanks, I needed that!
    I love this web site, you guys (gals, mates, whatever) are the best!

  • Michael

    @thebluebird11: No worries. I’ll let you off… this time.

    @Kathryn: Crotchety but bloody funny!

  • Melvin

    I better learn some of the others too so I can express it well. 😀

  • Becky the Floridian

    I have to admit, it irks me when people confuse yay and yeah. I’m not sure why, it just does.

  • thebluebird11

    @Becky (who might be a neighbor of mine, and glad not to be living in, say, Boston right now): I think people confuse “yea” and “yeah,” leaving off the H. They do both mean “yes,” but the former isn’t slang; it’s a vote FOR something (as opposed to AGAINST it), and also means “indeed,” as an affirmation. The latter is slang (or at least, that’s what my mother said LOL).

  • Laura

    “Ack” denotes disgust or dismissal? I’ll be darned; I’ve always used it to denote distress, a la the old “Cathy” cartoons.

  • Laura

    …or surprise, now that I think about it a minute more.

  • Bill from LA LA Land

    Mark, you left out an interjection I hear all the time in conversations, mostly when girls are talking; “uknow”. What would be a good definition?

  • Mark

    Also, I have found that people with knowledge of low-level networking protocols like TCP will sometimes use “ACK” in response to something that someone else says to them. My friends and I do this, typically in written communication, but it does sometimes come up in verbal communication. When spoken, we often repeat it twice over, like “ACK ACK.” It’s actually part of the written TCP specification; it is a shortened form of “ACKnowledge.” We also use NACK in the same way, as a form of negative acknowledgement, to say “I understood what you said but my answer is ‘no.'”

    I have found that these are generally understood when talking to people that are in deep in the IT crowd, but this does not mean by any standard that this usage is common. I simply offer it as an insight into a usage that some people might not otherwise encounter, as it is not likely to spread far, wide, or quickly.

  • Michael

    ‘Ack-Ack’ always meant surface-to-air gunfire to this little boy reader of war stories.

  • Mark Nichol

    “Ack-ack” was also the basic sound of the Martians’ language in “Mars Attacks,” so it has been used in isolated instances as a jocular synonym for “blah-blah-blah.” Trivial but true.

  • Jennifer Bankier

    Ack as a lay exclamation defined as in the main post definitely does not derive from Bloom County because I’ve used it this way all my life and I’m considerably older than the comic strip. Could the fact I’m Canadian have something to do with it? (Eh seems to be stereotypically associated with Canadians in the minds of Americans … do Brits and Aussies share this stereotype of Canadians, or do you use eh too?)

  • Bill DuPriest

    Where I’m from, “Hey” is the usual greeting, along with being a standard ejaculation indicating surprise or attempting to gain attention.

  • Mark Nichol


    “But wouldn’t a rhotic speaker write ‘uh’ for ‘er’? Might this cause some confusion for the non-rhotic speaker who could voice the former as a, sort of, near-grunt? Or do you think most readers get by given the context?”

    I think fictional dialogue and quotations in nonfiction alike should reflect standard English (whether American or British or any other variety), unless the intent is to characterize someone as having a distinct accent — such as a nonrhotic speaker, one who does not emphasize the r sound; Americans, think Bostonian.

    Er and uh are two distinct sounds in American English (and perhaps other dialects) that both serve to fill an otherwise awkward gap in speech, though come to think of it, I’ve often seen er used in writing but have never really heard anyone fill a pause with that particular sound; uh prevails. But we still know what er means when we read it.

  • Mark Nichol


    “‘Ack’ denotes disgust or dismissal? I’ll be darned; I’ve always used it to denote distress, a la the old ‘Cathy’ cartoons.

    “. . . or surprise, now that I think about it a minute more.”

    Ack — you’re right. It’s also appropriate for expressing those emotions, as well as a response to an omission or mistake.

  • Kiryn

    “Psst” is not a call for silence, it’s a quiet call for attention. Like when you want to whisper something to someone, or when a shady character is trying to call people into a dark alley for some questionable business deals. “Psst, hey you, over here!” I’ve never seen it used any other way.

    And as a gamer, I need to point out that w00t is an indication of triumph, not excitement, and is NOT a variant of “woo”.

  • thebluebird11

    @Kiryn: Just curious; why did you spell “w00t” with zeroes?

  • ApK

    >>Just curious; why did you spell “w00t” with zeroes?<<

    It's l337-speak:


  • Deborah H

    Skooled by ApK! D00D!

    (That’s it for me. I’m not smart enough/have the energy to keep this up 🙂

    This has been great fun. Mark Nichol—thanks again.

  • Kiryn

    Eh, it’s how it’s spelled. If I were writing a story where a character said the word aloud (which is pretty dorky, but I admit that I and other people I know are known to do so on occasion), I might spell it “woot” as a description of the sound, but when typing it to someone else as part of an online conversation, it’s almost always spelled w00t.

    Don’t ask me why, I can’t explain it — I just consider it evolution of the language by way of the internet. Wikipedia suggests w00+ as another alternative spelling, but I’ve never seen anyone actually spell it that way. Maybe I just don’t hang around those crowds — full leetspeak makes my head hurt.

  • Mark Nichol


    Psst! Thanks for the correction. That was a thinking-typing disconnect I didn’t catch then or later.

    And thank you for the clarification for w00t. I was trying to avoid yet another use of triumph in the list. Also, I haven’t traced a connection between woo and w00t, but I’d be surprised if none existed.

  • ApK

    I’m pretty sure “Woot!” (or W00t) is an onomatopoeia for a dog barking, as popularized on the Arsenio Hall show.

    It’s is probably more closely related to the military’s popular “Boo-ya” which is included in the list.

    I think the implication is “I’m asserting my dominance as the alpha of this pack.”
    Or, in l33tspeak, “u been pwned by the big dawg, n00b.”


  • Mark Nichol


    I’d forgotten about the Arsenio Hall w00t (and about Arsenio Hall, for that matter). I am sooo a pwned n00b.

  • thebluebird11

    As a person who spends a LOT of time on the computer, typing for work, I am all for anything that saves me keystrokes and/or is easier on my wrists; one carpal tunnel surgery was enough, thanks. So when I see abbreviations for things I type often, like IDK, YW, TYVM, etc, I’m all for it. My friends know that OMW means I’ll be there soon, OOB means I’m awake, and so on. So I can’t see typing 0s instead of Os, because my finger would have to reach further, and it’s hardly worth straining for. Same thing when substituting Z for S (as in, iz or itz). It’s easier to type “is” and “its,” because my finger is already sitting on the S key, but has to strain to reach the Z. My daughter, who is 18, for some reason types ii instead of I (as in, “ii have to go shopping”). Why, I have no idea. More typing=more strain on my hands. In texting, less is more. But maybe not so for eleetists.

  • Michael

    In the immortal words of Danger Mouse, ‘Now look here, I speak thirty-six languages fluently, but gibberish isn’t one of them.’

  • Michael

    thebluebird11: I too spend a lot of time on the machine, not to mention text messaging, but rarely use these acronyms. Note sure I agree that ‘in texting, less is more’ either. If you don’t want to text then don’t text. (And I’ve been treated for repetitive strain injury.) An occasional ‘FYI’ now and again, but rarely otherwise. Do you really believe these acronyms save you time on the machine? Or does the type simply inflate to occupy the same space/time it would have done had you written things out in full?

  • thebluebird11

    @Michael: Absolutely not! I love texting. It’s short and to the point. It doesn’t obviate the need for emails, phones or F2F; it’s another communication method with its own advantages and disadvantages. I also have a word-expander program in my computer, and I won’t use this post to go into what that is, for anyone who doesn’t understand, but suffice to say that if I need to type particular word or phrase, or entire document, for that matter, that I use quite often, I can type a couple or a few characters, and my expander will automatically insert whatever I’ve defined that character sequence to mean. So, e.g., if I have to use the phrase, “in other words” quite often, I can define the sequence “IOW” to automatically expand to “in other words” every time I type it. That is, of course, in my computer, not my phone. But my friends (and many other people, I’m sure), know what that abbreviation stands for, as well as they understand FWIW, OTOH, and so on. The program can show me how many characters I’ve actually typed and how many characters it expanded, as well as what I got paid for. I can tell you I get paid by the VBC (visible black character), not what I “typed.” And there are way more VBCs than I actually typed. Abbreviations, especially when used in conjunction with an expander, save plenty of time. And if not, they certainly save space.

  • Kathryn

    thebluebird11–in part, the abbreviations are used to establish a peer group of the cognoscenti. As Kiryn observes, full leetspeak is pretty brain hurty, but for some folks that is the charm of it–it shows that they are in the know, and allows them to communicate with those not in the know safe in the (quite incorrect, of course) knowledge that they can’t be understood by the rest of us. Nothing new, of course–every generation, and every special-interest group has its particular groupspeak vocabulary that helps to separate the us from the them. Being a lawyer, I find myself thinking about that a LOT. . .as I try to make sure my legal writings can be understood by layfolk.

  • Kathryn

    Um, why do I keep finding myself having to do this? (Worth reflecting on, eh?) No, that is NOT aimed at Michael. Abbreviating in texting makes sense for any number of reasons. It’s when it spills over to communication in a medium where it is unnecessary that it becomes a way of screening out lesser beings.

  • thebluebird11

    @Kathryn: I’m in the medical field, so I know what you mean. However, it’s different (in my mind) to use the legitimate medical term “cholecystectomy” to a lay person, and then have to explain, “we’re taking your gallbladder out,” versus taking ordinary words (like, for example, woot or dude), spelling them with numbers or non-letter characters (like w00+ or d00d), and considering yourself to be in some elite secret club and nobody knows what you’re talking about, with that actually perhaps being the goal: NOT to be understood by everyone. In the medical and legal fields, most of our terminology (OK, jargon) comes from other languages. We’re not trying to confuse people or hide things from them, nor are we trying to exclude them from comprehending what we’re talking about. In fact, if MY people did that, YOUR people would be all over it! I’m just drifting off into a horrible daymare, wherein a medical consent form is written in leet-speek…LOL

  • Michael

    thebluebird11 & Kathryn: ‘We’re not trying to confuse people or hide things from them, nor are we trying to exclude them from comprehending what we’re talking about.’ The fact is the way we speak (any of us) includes some and excludes others. My field is sustainability policy and science and I know that that very word ‘sustainability’ will throw some people, even it’s the best choice nonetheless, though not in all circumstances. Nothing wrong with jargon necessarily, but I find myself reacting viscerally to texts (email, sms or otherwise) with too much netspeak. It’s like a rash. As you say Kathryn, every generation, etc. I’ll happily use ‘ASAP’ or ‘wilco’ every so often, but when it spills—nay— pours over into ordinary correspondence, it can be overwhelming, distracting and downright alienating. Case in point: A good friend, whose English education in Singapore was superb (better than mine!), wrote to me in an email using ‘text-speak’ (e.g., ‘how r u?’). I know she didn’t mean to be rude, but it’s how it came across; as though she didn’t have the time to bother to spell out simple words.

    Oh, and the expander (‘app’? device?) you mention; I’m sure it’s useful, but I think it would drive me up the wall! It’s bad enough in text messages to have to go back repeatedly to amend words and change American to British spelling, let alone whole sentences. To me, it’s difficult to say whether these so-called ‘labour-saving’ devices actually save one labour. Or have we, like Bacon said, become the tools of our tools? Hard to say where the balance lies. Moreover, at thirty-nine years, I’m still learning the language, and enjoying learning how to be creative with it; to resort to an automaton that spits out automated phrases strikes me as robbing me of something wonderful. But that’s just me.

    Oh, and when people write ‘LOL’, are they really laughing out loud?! Someone should do a survey!

  • Kathryn

    Michael: What I would love to see a survey on is how many monitors/keyboards yearly are actually junked because someone read something funny while eating cereal/drinking coffeee/consuming some other sprayable substance.

    I do use text expanders in both my word processing and billing programs, and yes, sensibly used the do save some work. They also, in my word processing program, save me from the embarrassment of making a stupid typo in the name of a client school district. I’m intrigued by the notion of a program that would do that universally in all my programs. On the other hand, where the expanders are NOT a time saver is in the need to program the phrases. Which I have had to do all over again every time I upgrade my WordPerfect. Agony!

  • thebluebird11

    @Michael: OK, I’m not quite sure what your job is, if your field is “sustainability” policy, but I’m sure you didn’t invent that word to confuse me or keep your job secret. Also, I’m sure that if I asked, you’d be able to explain it, and not consider me beneath you for having to ask.
    As far as expander (program), it is what allows me to do my job as efficiently as I do.
    Consider this sentence: “The patient presented to Central General Hospital complaining of shortness of breath, dyspnea on exertion, 2-pillow orthopnea, nausea and vomiting.” How many characters is that if typed just like that?
    Now, consider this: If my word expander program is on, all I have to type is this: “Tp presd to cgh coof sob, doe, tpo, nav.” What do you think? How much work did I save my wrists? How much time did I save? How many characters did I type, versus how many will I get paid for? Do the math 😉

  • Michael

    thebluebird11: As I said, ‘but that’s just me.’ You’re welcome to do whatever saves you pain and discomfort. I LOL (really and for true) when I read your example sentence, however, especially ‘chg coof sob’!

    Shhh, my job is a secret, albeit a sustainable one 😉

  • thebluebird11

    @Kathryn: Yes, there is a curve in terms of inputting all the info into the expander program, as you know. But any program worth its salt has an easy way to do the input (e.g., highlight text, use hotkey), not like old macro programs (a la WordImPerfect). In addition, if you’re still using WordPerfect, might I suggest switching to Word, if possible. Many years ago, when my company made the switch, we all feared that our “macros” were gone, and we would of course have to spend months building up our libraries again. Thank goodness the company had some way of converting most, if not all, of our “macros.” My company now uses a web-based program, and it actually saves our expansions for us, so that even if we are on another computer, once we log in with our own IDs, we have access to our own libraries. That is about the only plus of this program, but it’s still something. I understand that there is also a way to import AutoCorrect from one computer to another; I’m not I.T. but I think this is what I was told. There are different uses for AutoCorrect versus word expansions, not that I would go into it here.
    Also, yes, my expansion program works in pretty much all my computer programs, including here, when it’s running.

  • thebluebird11

    @Michael: OK, maybe I didn’t LOL, just chuckle 😉 (at least there are no monitory/keyboard spray and replacement issues). But how do you abbreviate “chuckle”?! COL (chuckle out loud)? SC (slight chuckle)? HL (half laugh)? LQ (laughing quietly)?!

  • Michael

    thebluebird11: I’m tickled that you chuckled. Why not write ‘chuckle’? Or ‘ha!’ or ‘titter’ or ‘smirk’ or what have you? Why the need to homogenize and compress these diverse expressions into ‘LOL’? Texts, OK, I see the utility; emails though… This said, you may have noticed that I find the various ‘smileys’ quite useful every now and again.

  • Kathryn

    thebluebird11: Ah, well, see, I use both WordPerfect and Word, but I far prefer WordPerfect. Partially, of course, because having used it for years I can make it do very nearly anything I want it to in terms of formatting (although the Table of Authorities feature in the current version keeps committing suicide), but also very importantly because of the reveal codes feature. So I compose in WP, then convert to Word to send to clients. And, yes, that is faster than trying to become as fluent in Word as I am in WP. But that’s a function of my age as much as anything. . .
    I like to use snicker, snort, chuckle and guffaw. LOL always strikes me as. . .vapid.

  • thebluebird11

    @kathryn: I would venture to say that Word could provide the same “reveal codes” you need, but I’m not the Last Word in Word. I know you can see tabs and “enters,” probably other stuff too, depending on what you need (I’m thinking how much could you need, in the legal field).
    I often use LOL in place of “jk” (or j/k, i.e., just kidding), because not everyone knows what jk is. Also, as you know, written words in emails and texts contain no inflection or expression, so the recipient can draw the wrong conclusion if you are joking or being sarcastic; somehow, jokes and sarcasm don’t transmit well. So an occasional LOL just to lighten things up, you know? As mentioned in other posts here (how far we have strayed from the topic!), people who use these terms in ordinary conversation (imagine Ladies Who Lunch sitting at the Le Bistro saying, “Oh, Marge, that’s so funny! LOL! But FWIW, I heard a joke the other day that IMHO was much funnier…”) Now THAT would be annoying!

  • Kathryn

    Grin. What a quinkydink! A good friend just sent me one of those pass-them-on e-mails titled something like “This is hilarious.” I never pass them on, but sometimes I’ll cull the good bits and use them elsewhere. . .as in this case. I’ve picked a small handful out of a long list. I give you:

    STC (Senior Texting Codes)

    BTW: Bring The Wheelchair
    FWIW: Forgot Where I Was
    IMHO: Is My Hearing-Aid On?
    LOL: Living On Lipitor
    TTYL: Talk To You Louder

    [And, no, Word truly does not have any feature anywhere NEAR as powerful as Reveal Codes, but explaining why would really drag us OT. Yeah, OK, I realize we aren’t even within hollering distance of the topic at the moment, but all the same.]

  • ApK

    >>Also, as you know, written words in emails and texts contain no inflection or expression, so the recipient can draw the wrong conclusion if you are joking or being sarcastic; somehow, jokes and sarcasm don’t transmit well. So an occasional LOL just to lighten things up, you know? <<

    What an odd thing to say in a blog about writing. Written words don't carry inflection no matter WHERE they are written, yet I don't recall Jonathan Swift needing to use winky emoticons to make his intention clear.

    If the intended tone is missing from the words in an email, it's because the writer neglected too put it there.

    Not that I have anything against an LOL or a smiley, but it's because we writers choose the speedy and effortless short cut.

    And admittedly, it's a rare wit that pack a lot of subtext into a 140 character SMS message.

  • ApK

    >>STC (Senior Texting Codes)<<


  • Michael

    I reckon ol’ Swifty would have thrown in a Lilllputian smiley or two, if he’d had access to a typewriter. He knew a few Yahoos too. 🙂

  • Kathryn

    Michael–Yeah. Every time I read a reference to Yahoo, or make one myself, I find my mind slithering back to Swift. Lord, thank you for the subtexts of life!

  • thebluebird11

    @ApK: Sorry, but when you’re emailing or texting, all the “other” stuff usually contained in a book is not there to give the context you need. I can say “Yes” a thousand different ways, but if all I do is answer “yes” in a text, you have no idea how I said it. I might have been thrilled, sullen, grudging, resigned, hesitant…all things that a book would have clarified (“‘Yes,” she said _____'”, fill in the adverb of your choice here).
    In fact, earlier today (you can scroll way up), my Aussie friend there (Michael) had a typo, and I attempted to correct him “kindly,” by putting the word “kindly” in brackets prior to my correction. Unfortunately, because of HTML issues, the brackets and the word didn’t appear in the post, and I think he took it as if I were being nasty about it, when in fact, quite the opposite.

    @Kathryn: Someone sent me that very list not long ago, and I did literally LOL!! My faves were DWI (driving while incontinent) and FYI (found your insulin). Now, if I could literally LMAO that would be wonderful, better than diet and exercise!

  • Michael

    thebluebird11: I didn’t take much offence at all, but expressing that clearly has proven as difficult as conveying no offence in the first place! Oh, the bells! The bells!

  • thebluebird11

    @Michael: (A) I was going to say, why are you up so late, but in fact you’re halfway around the world, so perhaps it’s lunchtime where you are (chuckle). (B) It was the “geez louise” part of your reply (if you scroll up to the posts we’re talking about) that made me think you were irritated or exasperated. (“Geez Louise,” he snarled). But we cleared that whole thing up. (C) What bells??

  • Michael

    thebluebird11: ‘Geez Louise’ is snarly? I had no idea.

  • Michael

    thebluebird11: The bells of the Cathedral at Notre Dame; they drive the Hunchback nuts (well, he’s already a little, um, stressed). I meant to express my frustration and mental anguish at our crossed wires… but seemed only to have crossed them more.

  • thebluebird11

    @Michael: No seriously! We’re fine! We’re friends, buds, amigos, compadres, chaverim, amis…
    I originally took the “geez louise” as if you were irritated with me for being picky and calling you out on the typo (I had no way of knowing it was a typo because I think you misspelled it twice). And, that was in spite of the little smiley you put there…which should have been a clue to me that you were NOT irritated. Of course you don’t know me, but I’m the kind of person who always feels that if something goes wrong, it’s my fault. So that’s why I apologized within the same post (said I was sorry for being persnickety). Our wires are not crossed! Wires are straight! No frustration! No mental anguish (OMG is it now my fault that you’re mentally anguished…..how will I sleep? Can I ever forgive myself?) 😉

  • Michael

    @thebluebird: [Plays gentle, soothing music.] 🙂

  • thebluebird11

    @Michael: LOL…zzzzz….

  • Kathryn

    Oh, nicely played, y’all! A perfect illustration of the problems with tone in electronic communication. ApK, I believe it is different from other forms of writing largely because we think of e-mail (and SMS and texting, and message forums) as conversation. The audience (yup, there comes King Charles’s Head!) has different expectations about the nature of the experience.

    And, for that matter, Swift was a brilliant example because I’ll bet there were (and are) a lot of people who totally missed his point because of not sharing his assumptions. Humor is particullarly prone to being misunderstood.

  • ApK

    Bluebird, it is the writer’s choice to answer with a simple “yes” rather than with more words. I’m not saying it’s a poor choice, we use these tools to save time, after all, but it’s not inherent to the medium.

    Kathyrn, When I mentioned Swift, I was thinking of “A Modest Proposal.” The man could do snark.


  • thebluebird11

    OK, so here we are, 24 hours later, still posting on this topic (ok, OFF the topic).
    @ApK: Just as an example, let’s say my neighbor texts me, “Can you please walk my dog at 1 PM today? Thx.” So, let’s say my reply is “Yes.” What was the whole gestalt surrounding that “yes”? Do I like my neighbor or do I just tolerate her? Am I friends with her, and quite willing to do her the favor, perhaps because I know she does (or would do) the same for me? Or do I feel that I had better do her the favor just to keep good relations between us? Maybe I do it because although I don’t care much for her, I feel bad for her dog. Maybe I like her but am exasperated that she is asking me to do it every day….you get my drift? Now, for the sake of neighborliness, I am not going to put anything else into my texted reply. Just “yes.” She has NO idea what went thru my head, and no idea which, if any, of those thoughts was behind my reply. She might think that I was abrupt or rude because I didn’t flesh out my reply more (“Yes, gladly, any time!” “Why, sure! No problem, I’d be happy to help you out!”). She might wonder if I’m OK with helping her out, or if I’m annoyed. But that might be exactly the reason that all I said was “yes” and nothing more. And just for the record, I like my neighbor and am happy to help her out with this!
    @Kathryn: Nice pun there 😉

  • Cecily

    thebluebird11: If your neighbour sends you texts, rather than just knocking on your door, maybe you already have issues? 😉

  • ApK

    bird (may I call you bird?),

    You say ‘for the sake of neighborliness, I am not going to put anything else into my texted reply’

    But does that imply that if you were asked in person, you would let your other feelings be known through inflection or expression or whatever? That’s not neighborly…that’s passive aggressive….;-)

    If your neighbor is asking you a favor and trusting you with her dog, doesn’t that mean they know you fairly well and probably already have a sense of how you feel about it?

    In any case, your text reply doesn’t HAVE to be “yes.” It could be “YES!” or “Anything for you!” or “again? sure.”

    Or even “No.”

    And Cecily, don’t get me started. My wife is texting constantly with the woman across the street. They could yell out the window faster. But in bluebird’s case, I’d presume the neighbor wasn’t home, hence the need for someone else to walk the dog.

  • thebluebird11

    @ApK: Sure, you can call me bird…that’s been my dad’s nickname for me since I was just a chick LOL
    In person, if she asked me that (which would probably never happen, since if she were here, she wouldn’t need me to walk her dog, unless perhaps she had foot surgery, like I did, and then she had to walk MY dog!) I would say “Yeah, sure, no problem.” Which is what I said the day we were walking our dogs together and she told me that her son had moved out, and now there was nobody to walk the dog during the day, meaning, the dog would now be home for at least 10 hours with no walk. So I offered to walk her dog mid-day, since I work from home and have to break to walk my own dog anyway. And that probably answers Cecily’s post as well. My neighbor has a “real job.” And, for the record, our doorways are maybe 20 feet apart, but we text each other even when we’re home until I get exasperated and pick up the phone!

  • Kathryn

    An administrator for a client school district was once telling me the facts leading up to a legal question about the release of student information. The facts featured a carful of students driving by an ice cream place and seeing a boy from a different district with whom one of them had a feud. When the administrator asked me her question I didn’t hear it because I was still sputtering over her explanation that the passenger who recognized him texted the driver to go back (fight ensued). I mean. . .they were in the same CAR!

    Harumph. Why does this program refuse to recognize the word carful?

  • thebluebird11

    @Kathryn: Oh wow…that’s a whole pile of issues! Texting while driving, texting to a person presumably sitting no more than about 2 feet away, and so on. Maybe the music in the car was REALLY, REALLY LOUD and the driver didn’t hear the passenger telling him to go back!
    …and I suspect that your program wants to steer you away from “carful” and into “careful.”

  • Kathryn

    thebluebird11: Backatya “nice pun.”
    Yup. “Careful” was one of its first suggestions. . .which is why spell check will never replace proofreading. Well, one of the reasons why.

    And, yes, the fact that the driver was texting–or at least checking text messages–was also a concern, although not really a concern for the school attorney, thank the lord. The loud music explanation is plausible, but I have this really bad feeling that those 40 years younger than I would just look puzzled and blank if I suggested to them that there had to be some special REASON to text in that situation. I have lived all my adult life in a child-free environment, but what I hear from my clients leads me to suspect that it really is a different world out there, beyond the ordinary generation-gap thing.

  • thebluebird11

    @Kathryn: Boy, are we off topic! Almost makes me want to say, let’s get out of DWT’s hair and let’s continue this in regular email!
    There is probably a generational thing, but yes, there are other issues. My ex-husband used to tell my daughter that the reason she and I didn’t get along was that we were “too alike.” I beg to differ. In fact, we are NOT alike (OK, yes, we are both female, have 2 eyes, a nose etc). She is more like my mother was, in terms of some aspects of her personality, and I feel trapped between two annoying people.
    As much as I appreciate the advantages of each form of communication, I understand the drawbacks and limitations too. I also understand that many people my age and older (and maybe younger too, as I think you are) don’t see eye to eye with the preteens/teens/20-somethings who can spend hours at a family dinner or a party, and be texting the whole time, yes, even to people at the same function! I consider it rude, but I guess they consider it routine, no “special reason” required. My neighbor, who, at 40, is more than a decade younger than I am, goes ballistic about people texting and driving, and is on the warpath to make it illegal. Sigh. I know she’s right. I also know that no matter what laws you pass, there are people who will break them, get away with it, and even take others’ lives as they do it…

  • Kathryn

    thebluebird11–if your 40 year old neighbor is only “more than a decade” younger than you, I suspect you and I would qualify in most people’s minds as conteporaries. And to your last point? Amen!

    If DWT frowns on sharing e-mail addresses, then no doubt this post will get deleted, but I agree that maybe we should let this thread expire in a natural way. So. I am at Verizon.net. My last name is McCary. There is a period between my first and last names, which are then followed by the a-in-a-circle symbol and the domain name.

    Because, really, I could expatiate on the subject of texting-while-mediating, but I think it would be better to stop. Here.

  • Kathryn

    ApK–well, when I read “A Modest Proposal” in High School English umpteen many years ago, a large part of the (AP) class was initially highly indignant over his barbaric suggestion. Didn’t get the satire, y’see. I have always suspected that the inclusion of that piece in “A Reader for Writers” is why that highly innocuous work made it onto the hit list of “Anti-American, Anti-Christian, Anti-Semitic and just plain filthy” books that ultimately led to the US Supreme Court’s decision in “Island Trees Sch. Dist. v. Pico” (school library books have tenure–you don’t have to buy them in the first place, but once they are on the shelves you can’t remove them because of objections to their content.) I traced down a copy of the book (which was the text for my HS English class) and am reading through it. . .slowly. . .and I sure haven’t come across anything else that would qualify!

  • GS

    This list made my day 🙂

  • Round One

    There are many others, I assure you. And there are things that don’t normally come to mind that fit the category as well. One time in grad school we decided to develop a list of expressions that could mean the sex act; we quit when the list eclipsed 150 words and we were still mining.

  • makram

    whats so nice about this list is the fabulous comments. thanks guys

  • Stephen Thorn

    Mark, it was an excellent list and a fun post. But I might suggest an addition for “uh-huh” as in “uh…huh” (wherein the interjection is broken into two distinct sounds with a pause between them). This would be a derisive dismissal of something, as in “You say that your dog can do algebra? Uh…huh. Right.”

  • Mark Nichol


    I hear you — with a rising inflection. That interjection is not unknown to me.

  • kileytoo

    I would add “Yep” to the list, I use it quite often as starting a sentence with “Yes” somehow seems a bit too much… I think it was originally “Yup.” Funny, it was not in the list but I found it twice in the comments above…

  • JK Brennan

    This list is excellent, the comments absolutely wonderful. I find it interesting that a post about words that are not at all words, on a website about words, can evoke such huge response. 🙂 Oh, and Ack, in my world as a Sweed, means something like “Ah” in a somewhat sorroful and fatalistic voice. Hard to explain. It is used in some beautiful old Swedish folk songs. My mind just refuses to accept that it might be a negative expression. About texting and teenage speak; I simply can’t deal with those that skip the apostrophy in “I’m” or “It’s”. Just a pet peeve maybe but that does give them a different meaning altogether. In texting it’s understandable but in emails and on websites it looks so sloppy. I have never been a fan of sms and even if I have adapted the lol and ttyl etc, I’ve more and more started to use the *snickering, *scratching my head* or *grinning wickedly* in emails etc. I do prefer to express myself without worrying about others understanding me when it’s just as easy and almost as fast to make myself perfectly clear. I get a feeling that now that we have unlimited storage space, online and on our own harddrives, we create boundaries for ourselves that are unnecessary. Twitter of course is one example. Another one is bad cellphone operators putting a ridiculously low limit on the message size when there is no technical reason whatsoever to do so. Uh, I’m ranting. sorry. 🙂

  • JK Brennan

    I have a friend that keeps telling me that spelling doesn’t matter in our online chats, yet he is just as pedantic and we both fight our instincts to correct and apologize. I was struggling, I lost. That was supposed to be “adopted” 😀

  • Merle Tenney

    A little clarification on the word “woot”. In the gaming world, WOOT is short for “we own other team” as in “we beat you”, “in your face”, etc. The leetspeak version is usually “w00t”, but other variants are possible.

  • Bob

    Cool. We all need to be groomed from the basics when we are young in order to master thee little basic but the most important aspects of English which define who we are and how we approach our daily communication as it can be perceived with ought any good effect.

  • Samuel Damian

    I must confessed that i have been richly enlightened more on many exclamations i never knew earlier.now my vocabulary library has been reinforced.cheers for that!

  • mathew

    i want to know the meanings of the words like

  • Cynthia

    Exclamation and Interjection are one and same thing.

  • Kassia Verne

    Mark, Great article, Its good to finally find a list such as this online.
    I am PhD student, currently in the process of building a dictionary program to analyse large corpora. With your permission, may I use this list above, Have you written about this topic in a more formal setting such a book chapter or journal paper? As I’d like to make reference to this work in my thesis? Could you also recommend anyone else who has generated a similar list such as this? – Thanks Kassia

  • alex


    Isn’t Ooh-la-la borrowed from French, which would explain its posh-ness
    or pretention, as you put it.

  • Teen Victum

    Excellent list. Well done; however…

    Two critical items are missing. They are similar in spelling and root word, but have different pronunciations and often completely different meanings:

    wut: spoken in a (querulous) dull, moronic undertone, it typically indicates a request for repetition or identifies the other person’s statement(s) as being of mildly questionable validity.

    wat (pronounced with a long “a”): also querulous, but spoken in a sharper and higher voice than “wut.” It is used for complete disbelief or speechlessness. Physically, it is accompanied by a squinting of the eyes.

    Both are used in texting and 1337-speak.

  • Helen

    Well, hello. I don’t know if this has been said already because I got too impatient to read every post, but I thought that ‘hamana-hamana’ came from the Flintstones, not Bill and Cat or whatever… then again, I’m not from the Flintstones’ generation, I’m pretty sure that that was my oldest sister (I’m sixteen, she’s twenty-two), so I’m probably wrong.
    I feel like I should throw in some interjections, but I’m not really in the mood… I’m normally much more fun, I swear!

  • Uyen

    Hello all, I have no idea whether these have been said already but I just wanted to share the interjections that I use. I don’t know whether there is any one under 18 here so here’s my list from the perspective of the younger generation.

    Whoa- said in awe
    pwar- said in amazement. (“You actually did that? Pwar” Can be emphasized with capitals “PWAR!”)
    whoaa? or wha?- what?
    say wha?- What did you say?
    Yep or yerp- meaning yes
    Ergh or Erg
    Eek- sound of surprise- (eg when I fall off a chair)
    Woop instead of woot
    Pah instead of Feh or Bah
    Hmf instead of Hmph
    Pfft or Pshh
    AHH- frustration (caps are for emphasis)
    heheh instead of hee-hee
    a laugh is hahah, a more cheeky laugh is heheh or tehehe
    lol- but not actually laughing
    LOL- actually laughing out loud
    to emphasis the humor, you could text LOLOLOL etc
    Um- said when thinking
    gee gee-
    (eg. “Red shirts are the coolest thing ever” Sam says ” I have a red shirt..” ” Hahah gee gee”) It’s like touche but not.. Sorry guys, I don’t really know how to explain it

    Anyway. I think people were talking about vocab in texting in the comments above. Putting emotions into your text is essential. And the full stops matter as well. Full stops sends a blunt tone.
    If I got sent a text and I replied as “Fine.” or “Kay” means that I’m very mad at that person. Kay means okay but I think it indicates that the person doesn’t even deserve the effort of putting in that o. I don’t know but I think that’s what it means. I just know that it mean your mad.

    It depends whether I’m talking to my boss or friends.

    Putting in interjections in a text means that it’s playful. Adding emotions such as 🙂 ^^ :3 :p and the 😉 wink. The wink is seductive. It can also be playful. It depends what your talking about and I don’t want to offend by giving an example. The emotions already on the phone are weird. Like what’s with the nose? 🙂

    I text my aunty who’s 30 and she texts very very different. I tell her she texts like an old person. Then she hits me.

    For those who are curious, a text to one of my friends would refer to something along the lines of this:
    ” Oh what your actually working!!!!???? D:”
    “Ohhhhhhhh i didn’t think of that place:p oh well I’ll leave you to study then:)”

  • Duser

    People, keep your comments down to a sentence or two. Seriously.

  • Herb Powell

    “Yay” is a non-standard spelling of “yea,” and thus an affirmative like “yes” or “yeah.” It’s functionally equivalent to the last two with an exclamation mark, except that many people misspell “yea” as “yeah,” which is tenable except when used ironically (when it looks bizarre.)

  • RapMan

    All one-word expletives can be included as expressive interjections. I assume that, unlike the Urban Dictionary website, you’re keeping it clean here. Oh, what the heck. One common expletive is s**t. It’s a substitute for ack, ugh, oy and the like. One online dictionary defines its use as an interjection as: “to express disgust, disappointment, frustration, contempt, or the like.”

  • Ms.Haha

    I’m sorry but whenever I hear ‘hamana hamana” all I can think of is spongebob. And if it wasn’t for that I honestly don’t believe I would have ever heard that interjection — ever. xD

  • joie

    And then there’s “meh.” From The Urban Dictionary: “Indifference; to be used when one simply does not care.

    A: What do you want for dinner?
    B: Meh.

    I’ve also heard it described as a VERBAL shrug of the shoulders.

    A. How was the movie?
    B. Meh.

  • Nerdsworth

    I’m bookmarking this page. Lots of informative and intriguing comments, too. And by lots, I mean massive, tiring walls of text. Not even sure if anyone will ever notice my two cents here.

    “People, keep your comments down to a sentence or two. Seriously.”

    Eh, some people just have a lot to say. Its fine by me as long as their comments are arranged neatly in paragraphs, and straightforward (not unnecessarily long, all bullshit cut).

    “….American dogs say “ruff, ruff” or “bark, bark” (or whatever). Israeli dogs say “Hahv, hahv.””

    I never knew about the Israeli dogs. Why “hahv, hahv”? It doesn’t sound like a bark. Here in Philippines, dogs say “aw, aw”. Also, Filipino frogs say “kokak, kokak”.

  • Elliot Mabeuse

    “Feh” is NOT equivalent to “meh”. Both are from Yiddish, where “meh” is more commonly encountered as “mneh” or, better, “myeh”, with an indifferent shrug. But “feh” is an exclamation of disgust and distaste for something dirty, soiled, or sordid. Feh is what you say when you throw out some obviously spoiled food, or empty ashtrays, or hear about someone posting pictures of their genitals to facebook. Hardly the same as the bored indifference of “meh”.

  • JM Grieves

    Maybe this was already discussed and I missed it, but there is an alternate use of “Eh”–in Canada (or parts close to Canada, such as North Dakota). In Minnesota we finish sentences with “then,” Scots do so with “y’ken,” and Canadians use “eh.” No further information sought in that usage–it’s rhetorical.

  • Bekah

    @JM Grieves
    I don’t know if the “eh” you are referring to is similar to what my family from Maine say (near the St. Stephen part of Canada): They say “eh” but also (let me try to spell it out: “eh-yut or ah-yut/aye yut”? usually in an affirmative response to somebody else.

    Mainers have a lot of interjections that I don’t hear down here in New Haven, ct: like “yessuh” pronounced differently than the southern version “lately heard in movies that 1. either are actually films about slaves on a plantation, or African American/Black person servant/butler/maid in confirmation or 2. ignorant mocking of what a servant or slave might say to a white “Yessuh master.” Essentially Yes Sir… In Maine it is very different, slowed down I guess? IDK I tried to add to the list, and my explanation was in NO WAY intended to offend. I was trying to find a way to express it and unfortunately being PC online is hard to tell sometimes. Apologies to any and all if it didn’t come off the way I intended.

  • Tammy

    whoopee/whoopie (slang, informal) – an exclamation of joy, excitement; a loud, excited shout of happiness etc. Used to express jubilance , exultation, merry abandon. Shows that you are very happy and excited. Noisy and boisterous revelry.

  • Auyan

    “Boo” is used less often to intentionally scare someone and more often to alert them to the fact that you’re there, in a less-than-polite fashion.

  • Auyan

    You forgot “like.” Overused whenever someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about forgets what they’re trying to say.

  • Lenny Schafer

    Blah, blah, blah, mentioned earlier by someone denotes boredom with speech, while single blah denotes general boredom as indicated (or perhaps as a contraction of bland). Blah, blah, blah may be a spoken cognizant taken from Spanish: habla, habla, habla means talk, talk, talk. (The h is silent in Spanish).

  • Roseline

    So how do I use Duh!I never thot its an exsisting interjection!as well as vava vomvom

  • Varina

    An interjection missed: Oi. I believe that it came over to the US via England or Australia, but I have no proof. Mostly I’ve heard it used in the context of an attention-getting sound, as Americans would use Hey! or Hey, you!
    Another one I missed is Ay yi yi! Often accompanied by the shaking of one or both hands (and maybe a head shake, too), it’s an intensification of Ay, as in Ay, what a mess!
    And ApK, Kathryn, and thebluebird11 – kudos, hugs, and a HUGE grin to you – you kept me entertained all night!

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