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Posted by R. Berg on July 22, 2004

In Reply to: Okay posted by dhm 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...

: : 1. What's this about pat malone? A regional expression? I never heard it (U.S.).

: : 2. I hear parents using "okay" in contexts that do suggest asking permission or, rather, requesting the child's consent. "Turn off the TV now, okay?" "Go change your shirt, okay?" This use makes me think that families have become much more democratic than they were a few decades ago. Parents gave commands; they didn't invite negotiation.

: As a parent, let me assure you that following a request with "okay?" is not evidence that our families are democratic or that I am asking the child's permission. Rather it is a desperate attempt on the parent's part to extract some verbal acknowledgement of his existance from his child. Requests, questions, and commands that are issued to a teenager in front of a television set might just as well not been spoken unless the questioner forces the kid to admit that he or she has heard you. Sad but true.

The older utterance for that purpose was "Right now! DID YOU HEAR ME?"

Actually, the children I hear addressed with "...okay?" are younger than teens, maybe ages three to seven.