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Who cares what it sounds like?

04
Dec
2009
 

By Miranda

Nailing my colours to the mast, I declare I am anything but apathetic about the word MEH.

In fact, I love it. This could easily have something to do with its displacement of the teenager's DUNNO or WHO CARES? of previous years, thus providing anyone older, and parents in particular, with a moment of novelty (though not, of course, for long).

I like the sound of MEH - the way it works both as a singular response to a statement or question and as an adjective. Interestingly, for a word that's onomatopoeic, there aren't very many variant spellings floating around, even on the Internet.  Thanks, John Swartzwelder*.

This is not the case for HMM or AARGH.

Our problem with onomatopoeic words is always how they are actually spelt. I'd like to add TUT, EEK and TSK as well as the MEH, HMM and AARGH if we can agree on the spelling.

HMM seems clearly related to MEH (is there something intrinsically noncommittal about the sound of an M?) in the sense that both can be used as a response, or interjection, indicating "don't agree with the preceding but can't be bothered saying why" or even the ignorance/apathy double, "don't know, don't care". But when it comes to spelling HMM, you may double (or more) the Hs and add as many Ms as you wish. And people do, though most dictionaries seem to prefer the more economical H'M.

AARGH, it appears, is an extension of AH. The addition of vowels, and the various representations of the bit at the back of the throat, gave us Monty Python's early 'Black Beast of Aaauugh' and the more modern distinction, in pirate-speak, between ARRR!, conveying mostly positive responses or emotions (this is a fine declaration I'm nailing to the mast) and AARRGH! indicating pain, disappointment etc. (that was my thumb I've nailed...).

All those in favour of adding sound words to our clue database, please say AYE - or EH, YEA, EYE...

 

*Writer credited with the episode from The Simpsons in which the spelling M – E – H is used by Lisa, so it must be right.

Miranda

 

Comment on this blog

 

13 Responses to

Who cares what it sounds like?

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December 04, 2009 at 3:48 PM

I have never heard of MEH, what on earth is it supposed to mean?????

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luddite said:
December 04, 2009 at 9:00 PM

To debdestiny56, it seems to be an under 30's abbreviation for anything from "I don't know" to "I don't care", or perhaps both, without the need to actually express themselves, which would probably require several expletives. Thankfully some use it instead, saving our ears from more abuse . By the way, it is not onomatopoeiaic, in that the word itself does not resemble the sound of its subject.

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December 04, 2009 at 9:27 PM

I hate that response from my teens. It makes me so mad!They use it to avoid further discussion as an "I don't care and it shouldn't concern you either" or "So what?" You are lucky Deb not to be experienced with it.To answer Miranda's question it seems that the usage is becoming common enough that it will soon be in a dictionary. Some of your mentioned words are probably there already.

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December 05, 2009 at 3:27 AM

Thanks luddite and stitch, I don't get to hang around with teens much with all 3 boys now being in their late 20s and a granddaughter only 7 - I hope the word disappears before she's a teen, from the sound of it I don't think I'd like hearing it much either!!!! Have a great Christmas

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December 07, 2009 at 7:32 AM

good blog post, tres interesting

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said:
December 07, 2009 at 2:36 PM

HI i for one am a teenager and go to a public high school, going into senior years next year, I rarley hear the word meh though the saying Don't know, don't care (i believe) is becoming more popular.

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luddite said:
December 07, 2009 at 3:59 PM

Glad to hear they're starting to use English again. Who knows, maybe grammar and punctuation can make a comeback!

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Staff

December 08, 2009 at 3:50 PM

Meh

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Novista said:
December 08, 2009 at 5:56 PM

Thirty-some years ago, I remember a Jewish friend using "Meh." Everyone knew what he meant. Just sayin' ...

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moodymoo said:
December 09, 2009 at 4:52 PM

Who cares - people tend to use words and language to express themselves. I think the word itself explains what you'd be feeling like if you actually used it.

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Terriki said:
December 09, 2009 at 9:29 PM

Safe word? won't get you into trouble..MEH!

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Becstar said:
December 11, 2009 at 2:51 PM

my daughter says 'meh' all the time. I hate it! sometimes the word means dont know dont care but it also means "so so, okay, whatever" It is a typical word used here daily when I ask how was school, beach, sleep over etc etc ...It's just an easy way for her to answer without having a deep and meaningful conversation with your parents. welcome to the way of teenagers

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March 07, 2010 at 4:21 PM

If my daughter answered any of my questions with "meh" the next time she asked me for something I'd say nah, dunno, got nothin'.