MMmmm Owwww Weee or Yarp flooop squerze?
April 9, 2008 6:22 PM   Subscribe

Is Ooow Universal? If I kick a Masai warrior, Brazillian beach bum, an Eskimo or an Indonesian will the exclamation for pain be similar? What about Mmmmm?

The question is, how prevalent are the sub-verbal explanations that people make for pain, tastiness, excitement (weee)?

This is excluding actual words commonly used of course.
posted by sien to Writing & Language (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: previously on mefi.

I guess some say "ow" and others say "ai".
posted by CrazyJoel at 6:27 PM on April 9, 2008

My wife is Filipino (Visayan) and says it's "Agay" in Cebuano and "Aray" in Tagalog.
posted by nathan_teske at 6:42 PM on April 9, 2008

posted by aubilenon at 6:49 PM on April 9, 2008

This is secondhand, but a friend went to Taiwan to visit her extended family, and they were completely perplexed by her tendency to say "uh-huh" and "nuh-uh" for yes and no...she said it was like she was yipping like a dog to them. So there are two subverbal expressions that aren't universal.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 6:53 PM on April 9, 2008

Tamil (South Indian Language): Ayayayo!

Almost pronounced like I-I-O. It's rude, I think. When I was a kid, my mother hushed me for saying it in front of visitors. You could also get away with saying "Amma!" (Mother) or "Appa!" (Father) anywhere in south India. But I think Ayayayo is specific to Tamil.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 7:17 PM on April 9, 2008

i've had a tremendous amount of fun by asking non english/american speakers for their various sounds. scissors is often particularly funny.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 7:17 PM on April 9, 2008

CrazyJoel: I guess some say "ow" and others say "ai".

In Icelandic both are used. "Ow" is written á and "ai" æ.
posted by Kattullus at 7:39 PM on April 9, 2008

Response by poster: What about Mmmm and Weee?
posted by sien at 7:40 PM on April 9, 2008

I'm a native speaker of English and I don't say ow, unless I'm demonstrating something to a child, maybe, or being ironic. Often, I'll use it as a word of sympathy when someone tells me about the time the box of rocks fell on their head. But never as an exclamation.

(I think I say something like gaaaaaa! but I'm not in the mood to test right now.)

I am trying to say that it's not even universal within a language.
posted by rokusan at 7:41 PM on April 9, 2008

In North America it's "motherfucker!"
posted by Neiltupper at 7:48 PM on April 9, 2008 [9 favorites]

In Spanish it's "ay" - which rhymes with "I", not "A"

I think "mmm" is usually "emmm" as well.
posted by O9scar at 7:56 PM on April 9, 2008

> think Ayayayo is specific to Tamil.
We also say this in Kannada

posted by dhruva at 9:53 PM on April 9, 2008

There's a difference between the instinctual cry of pain that escapes at the moment of injury and the sounds you make afterward to communicate that you've been hurt. I wonder if the former is all that influenced by culture. I think I, an American, cry "AAH!" before I say "Ow". For the latter, they also say "Aduh" or "Adoi" in Malaysia. "Sakit" is the formal word for pain, hurt or disease, so it's not exactly "sub-verbal".
posted by BinGregory at 10:34 PM on April 9, 2008

I can't think of an alternative for "Mmmm", unless it's a smacking of the lips or clucking of the tongue.
posted by BinGregory at 10:42 PM on April 9, 2008

> think Ayayayo is specific to Tamil.
We also say this in Kannada

Ha! I was just about to say "Aiyo" for down here in Andhra.

iconoclast, yeah--I guess Ayayao (or any derivative there of) would be inappropriate in front of elders, although, when I was in school, we used to say Niyamma a lot!
posted by hadjiboy at 10:48 PM on April 9, 2008

I can't think of an alternative for "Mmmm"

How about "hsssssssh, wahhhhhhh!"
posted by hadjiboy at 10:50 PM on April 9, 2008

After watching the vid of the woman crushing grapes who falls, I now say "ogh ogh ogh ogh ogh ogh".
posted by bobot at 4:47 AM on April 10, 2008

Japanese people say "ita" really quickly, which I guess it just a truncated version of "itai" (painful/that hurts).
posted by borkingchikapa at 7:11 AM on April 10, 2008

in indonesia "sakit" means "hurt/pain/sick", but if an indonesian stubs their toe or something, most of them seem to make that "ai!"/"ay!" sound.

i never actually say "ow", does anyone? i think i sort of alternate between "ai!" (even before i moved to indonesia) and a sort of harsh, gutteral "ah!" i've travelled a lot, and i think there are learned sounds that change between languages, but when people really get surprised with something very painful out of the blue, they often make a noise along the lines of "ai!" or "ah!" or something similar.
posted by messiahwannabe at 8:55 AM on April 10, 2008

Video of the woman crushing grapes, falls, is here. She uses interesting words to express "ouch."
posted by exphysicist345 at 6:58 PM on April 10, 2008

Having lived in the US as a child, I use the gringo-sounds, which brings odd looks from my Chilean compatriots.
So no, they're not universal.
posted by signal at 11:14 AM on April 11, 2008

« Older Major work related anxiety.   |   Name this mystery baseball song Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.