"Eh" (pronEng|ˈeɪ or IPA|/ˈɛ/ in English) is a spoken
interjectionin Armenian, Japanese, English, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and Portuguesemeaning "?", "?", "" or "Repeat that, please". It is also commonly used as a method for inciting an answer, as in "welcome to Canada, it's nice here, eh?" In North America, it is most commonly associated with Canada.
It is an invariant
questiontag, unlike the "is it?" and "have you?" tags that have, with the insertion of "not", different construction in positive and negative questions.
There is some question about the origin of the term, a popular theory is that the "eh" sound is similar to the "ey" sound that a native French speaker will stereotypically say when pronouncing the word "Hey". Dropped H's are also common to many British dialects.
Throughout the Anglosphere
The only usage of "eh?" that is exclusive to
Canada, according to the " Canadian Oxford Dictionary", is for "ascertaining the comprehension, continued interest, agreement, etc., of the person or persons addressed" as in, "It's four kilometres away, eh, so I have to go by bike." In that case, "eh?" is used to confirm the attention of the listener and to invite a supportive noise such as "Mm" or "Oh" or "". It essentially is an interjection meaning, "I'm checking to see you're listening so I can continue."
"Eh" can also be added to the end of a declarative sentence to turn it into a question. For example: "The weather is nice." becomes "The weather is nice, eh?" This same phrase could also be taken as "The weather is nice, don't you agree?".
Depending on the speaker's tone or the dialectal standard, "eh" can also be perceived as rude or impolite, as "Repeat that!", and not a request.
Further examples of Canadian usage include: "I know, eh?" (Agreement), "Yeah, eh?" (Agreement; tone of voice changes meaning slightly). "I know. Eh!" (Pause between 'know' and 'eh' and emphasise 'eh'. This is an excited agreement.) Although technically questions, these are also said as statements.
The usage of "eh" in Canada is occasionally mocked in the
United States, where some view its use - along with ', an alternative pronunciation of "about" - as a stereotypical Canadianism. Such stereotypes have been reinforced in popular culture, and were famously lampooned in '; however, many Canadians dispute its use and it's estimated that only 1-3% of all Canadians actually pronounce 'About' like 'Aboot'. Singer Don Freedin his song " Saskatchewan" declares "What is this 'Eh?' nonsense? I wouldn't speak like that if I were paid to." There are many merchandise items on the market today that use this phrase, such as t-shirts and coffee mugs.Fact|date=June 2008
It is often joked about by Canadians as well, and is sometimes even a part of the national identity. [Will Ferguson & Ian Ferguson, "How to be a Canadian" (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre) 65-68] For example, a Canadian national team is sometimes referred to as the "Eh? team". Likewise, at one of their concerts, a member of the
Canadian Brass, referring to their arrangementof the jazz standard, " Take the A Train," said that they'd considered calling it "Take the train, eh?". A classic joke illuminating this: "How do you spell 'Canada'?" "C, eh, N, eh, D, eh."
The 2004 edition of the "Canadian Oxford Dictionary" states that "eh" is used most frequently by residents of Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick, somewhat less frequently in Quebec, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, and the three territories, and rarely if ever in Nova Scotia, Alberta and Newfoundland. This may reflect cultural differences among the provinces, perhaps including the physical distance between various areas of Canada and major American population centres.
The usage of the word is widespread throughout much of the UK, particularly in the north of England, in places such as
Yorkshire, Cumbria, and the Midlands, and also in various parts of Scotland.
"Eh?" used to solicit agreement or confirmation is also heard regularly amongst speakers in
Australia(where it is sometimes spelled "" on the assumption that "eh" would rhyme with "" or ""). In the Caribbeanisland of Barbadosthe word "nuh" acts similar. The usage in New Zealandis similar, and is more common in the North Island. It is also heard in the United States, especially Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the midwest, Oklahomaand the New Englandregion. In New Englandand Oklahomait is also used as a general exclamation as in Scotland.
Since usage of the word "eh" is not as common in the United States as it is in Canada, it is often used by Americans, and indeed Canadians themselves, to
parody Canadian English.
The equivalent in
South African Englishis "hey", of Dutch origin Fact|date=August 2008.
Kosovo & Albania
In Kosovo & Albania its also pronounced as "Ëh-Ëh" for confirmation of a question , but is mainly used in provinces as a quick reply but not in standard language , mainly in provinces and sometimes it is used often at every day language.
Eh is also used in Lebanon and Syria with the meaning of "Yes" to agree about something
Eh is also used in
Egyptian arabic "ايه؟" as "What? say it again". It could also mean "What's wrong?" either in a concerned manner or a more aggressive one, depending on the tone used to pose the question.
Eh is in Sweden most commonly used as a way of filling out a sentence when speaking, usually when the person talking has not yet come up with a way of continuing what he/she just said; "there's much, eh, difficulties in Palestine"
imilar terms in other languages
Japanese "Hee?" is a common exclamation in Japanese and is used to express surprise. It is also used when the listener did not fully understand or hear what the speaker said. It can be lengthened to show greater surprise (e.g. Heeeeee?!). "nee/ne?/naa" are extremely similar to the Canadian "eh," being statement ending particles which solicit or assume agreement, confirmation, or comprehension on the part of the listener.
Mandarin Chinese, "eh" (誒 in pinyin: ê4) is a relatively infrequently used exclamation expressing disappointmentor affirmation.
"Eh" is also used in Italian spoken language to express surprise or misunderstanding, but also as a general word for turning an affirmation into a question. In southern Italy, éh is used to reconfirm a statement after someone else denies it, like 'Yes you do' or 'Yes it is'
"Hein" is used in French and in
Brazilian Portuguesein much the same way as in English.
"Hain" is used in
Mauritian Creoleand it can express a variety of ideas. It is generally used in context of a conversation and is generally interpreted very quickly.
"Wa" or "wahr" is used in (very) colloquial German to express a positive interrogative at the end of a sentence, much as "Eh" is used in Canadian English. "Wahr" is the German word for "True" or "Correct". Statements expressed in Standard German are more commonly phrased in negative terms and outside of colloquial usage the ending interrogative is often "nicht wahr", which invites a response of "stimmt" (agreed).
"Eh" is used in Tigrinya (Eritrean language) to express surprise or shock/disaproving anger. If someone says something that might be considered improper, they might respond 'Eehhh?! "Entai"' ("entai" meaning 'what?' or 'what was that')
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