100 Mostly Small But Expressive Interjections

background image 224

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.

Stop making those embarrassing mistakes! Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips today!

You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!

Each newsletter contains a writing tip, word of the day, and exercise!

You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!

140 thoughts on “100 Mostly Small But Expressive Interjections”

  1. “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.

  2. 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?)

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

  4. Michael:

    “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.

  5. Laura:

    “‘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.

  6. “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”.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Kiryn:

    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.

  10. 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.”


  11. ApK:

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

  12. 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.

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

  14. 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?

  15. @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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. @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

  19. 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!

  20. 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!

  21. @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 😉

  22. 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 😉

  23. @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.

  24. @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)?!

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. @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!

  28. 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.]

  29. >>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.

  30. 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. 🙂

  31. 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!

  32. @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!

  33. 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!

  34. @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??

  35. 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.

  36. @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?) 😉

  37. 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.

  38. 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.


  39. 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 😉

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

  41. 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.

  42. @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!

  43. 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?

  44. @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.”

Leave a Comment