Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Interject!

Interject!

Let’s start out the year with some interjections, because sometimes you just have to interject.

Yippee showed up in 1920, an expression of exultation. It may have come from hip (as in hip hip hooray).

Dern (1830) & durn (1835) are American attempts to avoid the “swear word” darn, which was a 1781 American attempt to avoid the “swear word” damn. In popular usage, they all are an expression of anger, irritation, or contempt. Linguists believe darn may be an abbreviation of eternal damnation (mispronounced ‘tarnal damnation). If so, it’s related to the 1784 American interjection tarnation.

Wow showed up from Scotland in 1510, & continues to express a state of delight or amazement. Its source is unclear.

Ahem appeared in 1763, a lengthened version of the earlier hem, imitative of clearing of the throat. Ahem continues to be an expression of disapproval, embarrassment or an attempt to get others’ attention.

Oh is a one-interjection-fits-all-emotions sort of interjection from the 1530s. Existing in many Indo-European languages, oh can be used to express nearly any emotion. This interjection gave birth to oh boy  in 1910, oh baby in 1918, & oh yeah in 1924.

Hey has been part of the language since 1200. Like oh, hey has many meanings. Some include an expression of derision, challenge, greeting, pleasure, surprise, warning, & anger.

Mercy has been around as an English interjection since 1300. Though it originally was a shortening of may God have mercy, as a modern interjection mercy can express surprise, annoyance, fear, or thankfulness.

Man has been used as an English interjection since the 1400s, originally expressing impatience, surprise, or emphasis, & today — like the much-maligned interjection dude man can mean almost anything.

English is rife with interjections. If you’ve got a favorite “fit-to-print” interjection I missed in this very short list, please suggest it in the comments section.



My thanks go out to this week’s sources, Etymonline.com, Wordnik, Merriam-Webster, Collins Dictionary, & the OED.

6 comments:

  1. I just shared this on Twitter and used "heavens" as an interjection. I'm guessing that's been in usage for some time. I was surprised to see "wow" is so old. I still wouldn't feel comfortable using it in my Victorian era historical romance stories.

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    1. Greetings Luanna -- thanks for the share & thanks for coming by. I agree, those of us who write historical fiction have to balance the true language of the times with what is palatable & believable to the modern ear. It's a trick, isn't it?

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  2. Dude! I always wondered where in tarnation the expression "tarnation" came from. Now I know. :-) And like Luanna, I was all like wow to see that "wow" is so old.

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    1. Hey Anne -- it's always a pleasure to learn that a young-sounding word is older than oneself. I'm with you.

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  3. Groovy has always intrigued me. I'm pretty sure it was around before we Hippies incorporated into our so very groovy vernacular.

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    1. Hey Christine -- our pals at Etymonline (https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=groovy) say groovy came about in 1850 meaning "pertaining to a groove" & started meaning "Excellent or first rate" by 1937 -- long before "we" hippies started using this adjective. Thanks for popping by.

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