“Huh?”, indeed.

The Smithsonian posted a short piece by Akira Okrent back in March, entitled “Everybody in Almost Every Language Says “Huh”? HUH?!.” It’s a good article and doesn’t go too far into assumptions about the original survey. (The original is up at PLOS One, and is even less definitive, as it should be, given their data.)

All well and good.

Except that Cracked got ahold of this for one of their Five Things articles. Their interpretation notes:

A Netherlands-based team did a study about this, analyzing recordings of conversations in 10 unrelated languages like Spanish, Chinese, and Icelandic, and found that not only did all of them have a short word that begs clarification, they all sounded alike as well. Even the Russian language had a version that was close to it, despite the fact that their language doesn’t have an “h” sound (making their “huh?” sound closer to “ah?,” which is still pretty darn close).

Okay, not too far ou…wait. Again?

in 10 unrelated languages like Spanish, […] Icelandic, […] Russian

Um, yes. The Indo-European family called. They were a little confused. Yes, Spanish, Icelandic, and Russian are at best cousins, but still. “Unrelated”? Chalk another one up for Language Log’s “Language and the Media” tag.


~ by cjrecordvt on 2014/11/18.

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