[Ads-l] Antedating of "uh-huh"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Nov 18 21:10:21 EST 2018

We had a couple of threads on these back aways (2003, 2004, 2005). Besides “uh-oh” and “uh-uh”, there’s the closed mouth version, however it’s transcribed.  “m-hm” with no glottal stop (like the open-mouth version “uh-huh”) vs. “m?m” with glottal stop, like the open-mouth “uh-uh”.  And then there’s “nuh-uh”, with the same glottal stop--and the same high-low tonal pattern as found also in “uh-oh”, as opposed to the low-high of the positive versions. I’ve tried pursuing the idea that the glottal stop, interrupting the airflow, is an iconic representation of negation (there’s also “no you di?int” which had it’s 15 minutes, or maybe 15 months, of fame a while back), did I convince anyone?  Nuh-uh.


> On Nov 18, 2018, at 10:44 AM, James A. Landau <JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM> wrote:
> On Fri, 16 Nov 2018 12:06:29 Zone-0500  Herb Stahlke <hfwstahlke at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
>> In Nigeria in the Peace Corps in 1963 we had to learn that "eh heh" (low
>> tone-high tone) meant "no" and " en" (low tone nasalized) meant "yes".
> Was there a glottal stop between "eh" and "heh"?  I have been wondering if the two words
> in English with a glottal stop ("uh-oh" and the negative "uh-uh") were brought to the US
> by slaves from Africa (many of whom came from in or near Nigeria) and somehow made the 
> transition to general usage.
> - Jim Landau
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