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Poking the hornet's nest

Posted by Bob on July 22, 2004

In Reply to: You know posted by Word Camel on July 22, 2004

: : : : : Any one who has ever spoken to an English speaking Canadian has noticed that they say "eh" a lot, usually at the end of a sentence and usually with an interrogative flip. In fact, it seems to me that this is quite similar to the way French speakers use the interjection "hein". Have the Canucks borrowed something from the quebecois?

: : : : : Am I way off base on this? Any Canadians or canadiens care to st me straight?

: : : : eh?

: : : The Canadians and the French aren't on their pat malone with this. In different parts of differents states of Australia, they do the same thing - and there are variations on the same theme too. ie. instead of 'eh', some end their sentences with 'but' or 'well'. I've heard Kiwis do the same. And our heritage isn't French so beats the hell outta me why people do it.

: : English people often end a sentence with 'you know'. Scousers often use 'like'.

: Cockneys puncutate their sentences with the rhetorical questions "didn't I?" and "innit?" ('innit' meaning "isn't it?"). There are also some people from the wilds of Woking who who do a similar thing with "'ey?". The question seems to be a way of getting the listener's reassurance that the are listening and understand.

: I find myself using "okay?" this way with my small son, "Mummy is going to make breakfast now, okay?" The "okay?" means "do you understand?". I thought about it because a friend hears this all the time and thinks parents do it because they are somehow asking permission. I can see how it might be understood that way, but I don't think that's what they mean - at least I don't. Speaking of breakfast...

It's also a trait of stupid people (no nationality, race, gender or ethnicity implied - just plain stupid) to end sentences with "know what I mean?" or "you see what I'm sayin'?" or "you know what I'm talkin' about?" or any of a number of other verbal formulations that all say in effect "I spend so much time with other stupid people that I can't belieeeeeeeve you'll grasp this on the first try." One is tempted to inject the occasional "Yes, I understand what you mean. Really. No need to keep asking," but that would be likely to fall on deaf ears. Know what I mean?