Sounds and Interjections in English

Neste podcastKristen Hammer, nossa colaboradora norte-americana, fala sobre Sounds and Interjections (Sons e Interjeições) comumente usados no inglês americano falado.

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Hello guys, this is another episode of our Inglês na Ponta da Língua podcast. Today, we’re going to have Kristen Hammer, who is an American living in Florianópolis, where she teaches English, reading her blog post on sounds for us. So, let’s listen to her.

This is Kristen Hammer, professora de ingles, and I’m going to read my blog entry about sounds.

Who knew sounds can take the place of words?

I thought I would write about this subject, which can be termed “interjections”, because I have had various problems with it since I moved to Brazil. This is a subject that no one has taught me, no one seems to talk about, and nothing is written in my culture or language books to help me cope. Sounds, noises, gestures, and all types of body language can be misinterpreted and make for a lot of confusion!

Sounds and Interjections in English

I was at a school recently, waiting for my meeting to start, and overheard one of the teachers giving a lesson in the room next door.  The topic was “the ten most often used words in English”. All was going well until he got to the word “UH.”  I thought it strange that this interjection was included in the list of common words.  I don’t know where he got this list, but anyway, the example he gave for the use of “uh” was this:

Person 1:  Do you know what I want for my birthday?

Person 2: Uh?

Person 1: A new mountain bike.

Now that is definitely not how we use “uh” in English. After a second, I realized what he meant: In Brazil, this is the sound you make when you want the person to continue with what they were saying. I think in Portuguese you spell it “hã”, but I’m not sure.

This made me think about other sounds and noises that we use in English that you might hear.

Number 01) UH:  This sound is made to express confusion or uncertainty. Example:

Person 1: What movie do you want to go see?

Person 2: Uh (long pause), I think Batman would be fun!

It is also a space filler or a kind of pause while speaking.  Example: To get to my house you go right on Town Street, uh, then make a left on Main Street, uh… then go down the street, and , uh, five houses down on the left is my house.

Number 02) UH-OH: This is used for the sound that people make when they realize that something has gone wrong. Example: (after getting to the airport) “Uh-oh!  I forgot my passport!”  Or  “Uh-oh!  I think I put salt instead of sugar in the recipe!”

Number 03) OW or OUCH: The sound you make when someone or something hurt you or you hurt yourself.  Example:  “Ouch!  You just stepped on my foot!”  Or  (after sticking yourself with a needle while sewing)  “Ow!” What’s funny is that several times I tried to speak a little English with my boyfriend, and used the word “I”(eu)  with him…he thought he hurt me because I said “AI” which is a sound Brazilians use to express this same idea!!

Number 04) SHH: This sound you make to tell someone to be quiet or to talk more softly.  Example:  “Shhhh, you guys are making too much noise and I can’t hear the TV”. What I hear people do here in Brazil to express this idea is a VERY offensive sound to us (Americans). It is your “Psiu” sound. Here, people use this sound to quiet someone down, or to call someone’s attention. But to us, it sounds like you are calling a dog. It’s very demeaning!

I had a big problem with the Brazilian “Psiu” when an old boyfriend of mine used it with me.  I had only been in Brazil for about 6 months and he didn’t speak any English. He began using it to get my attention at home and that was bad enough. But when he began using it in public, I got so nervous, angry, embarrassed, and plain pissed-off at how he could treat me so horribly in public!  But now I know it was a misunderstanding and is just a culture thing. Even so, I still cringe when it is used in my presence in public!

Number 05) YUCK or EW or EWW – We make this sound when something is gross. I am told that Americans, specifically American girls, express this sentiment all the time. Along with scrunching up our faces and making a big scene. I think here people use ECA or EKA to express the same thing.  Example: “I am NOT going to eat those shrimp that still have the heads and feet on them, YUCK!”. I, personally, tend to use the word “gross” to express this feeling. It is said more drawn out. Example:  “Grrrrroooooossse… I can’t believe he just ate that snake alive” (after watching Man vs. Wild)

Number 06) MUAH…this one I am putting in here because I have had several people ask what this means because it is used a lot in Facebook messages and comments.  Here people use the words “beijos” or “bjs” at the end of a comment. For us, we sometimes put XXOO or XOXO,  which is hugs and kisses… But many times we put Muah, or MUUAAAHHH.   it is a drawn out sound as if you were planting a big, huge kiss on your friend’s cheek or lips.  But here, in Brazil, I notice that kisses are much shorter, so they don’t make the same sound. Again, it’s MUUUUUAAAHH.

Ok, That’s it for now. Thank you.

Saiba mais sobre Kristen Hammer e suas aulas particulares via Skype clicando aqui.

17 Comentários

  1. Muito legal o Podcast, mostra uma diferença de cultura entre o Brasil e os EUA e como uma simples interjeição pode mudar o significado das coisas.Confesso que ri quando ela imitou os sons das interjeições, achei muito engraçado.Só uma coisa. Denilso, eu acho que você fala muito baixo nos podcasts, eu ponho no volume máximo aqui no meu PC e mesmo assim não soa em uma altura agradável. Se puder fale mais perto do microfone que o som sai melhor.Obrigado pelas dicas do blog, gosto muito dos seus posts!

  2. So nice to know about these differences in cultures.I really liked this podcast!Thanks Denilso and Kristen!

  3. It helped me very much. Now I can understando when I see MUAAAAAAH! ON COMMENTS lolThanks!!

  4. Hey guys, thanks for the words here. We really aprreciate them!Dr. Yoshi, eu cometi um erro ao fazer a gravação: deixei o volume de captação do microfone baixo e quando eu fui ver já estava tudo editado e pronto. Fiquei com preguiça de refazer tudo e publiquei assim mesmo. No próximo prestarei mais atenção. 🙂Denilso de LimaCURTA NOSSA PÁGINA NO FACEBOOK

  5. I really liked! It's funny how one little expression can change the conversation's course depending on which country you are.

  6. Please, I'm starting in 'english', then you can correct me ok! I thank!!!

  7. I'm an American living in Brazil and can agree with the offensive nature of the sound she discussed.Despite having told my wife not to use this sound in the house, my 1 year old daughter is already using it to call the cat and to tell her aunts to be quiet!It takes a long time to get over not feeling offended by this sound, mainly due to the feeling that the other person is treating you like they would an

  8. That's fantastic. Very interesting 🙂 Thank you Kirsten and Denilso.Btw Kirsten, your voice is so lovely hmmmmmmmm

  9. Hahah!I really loved it! Awesome!Kristen Hammer, your voice is amazing and I enjoyed with the brazilian experiences you shared! I wish you improve your knowledge about our culture and language!

  10. Ainda em relação a interjeição "uh" em inglês que expressa dúvida e incerteza, conforme a explicação da Kristen, penso que, em português, a interjeição equivalente seria "eh", pelo menos na região de Minas Gerais onde moro. É muito comum aqui quando alguém está falando e não sabe o que vai dizer em seguida preencher o espaço em branco da fala com o som de "eh" (o mesmo som do verbo é). Por exemplo, suponhamos a indicação de um caminho: Você segue reto (em frente) até a igreja, vira à esquerda … eeee continua reto até a esquina, lá tem um laboratória médico.Em São Paulo, por exemplo, eu sei que algumas pessoas costumam usar "hã" no lugar desse "eh" do qual estou falando.

  11. Em relação ao psiu (=SHH), mesmo sendo brasileiro, devo admitir que não é uma forma educada de chamar a atenção das pessoas. É uma forma direta e autoritária de chamar a atenção das pessoas. Expressão uma certa dominação de quem fala. Infelizmente as culturas de cada povo também tem as suas coisas ruins que precisam ser melhoradas. Penso que os brasileiros deveriam mudar certos modos de expressão um tanto rudes.

  12. I agree with Alex on his description of the use of "psiu". Even though I am Brazilian, I have NEVER used it as I find it kinda rude. Anyway, great post! These are the little details that a lot of people don't know or realize when they learn another language, the cultural factor. Another thing I find interesting is how animal sounds are different in each language… I have an American and a Brazilian niece, so to one I say the dog makes a "bow-wow" or "ruff-ruff" sound, and to the other I say "au-au" or they won't know what the heck I'm talking about! 🙂 Something I also noticed last time I went to the US is how different it is to order food at a restaurant. We Brazilians tend to be very informal when ordering saying "eu vou querer tal coisa…" or "eu quero tal coisa…" which cannot be literally translated to English as it would be VERY rude! So every time I go to the US I have to watch my mouth and remember to say "I would like…" or "I'll have…." when ordering instead of automatically translating from Portuguese and saying "I want.."!

  13. Gostei muito desse podcast!A dica é boníssima e a voz da Kristen Hammer é maravilhosa. Denilso, você tem que postar mais podcasts com a Kristen. I think I'm in love with her!

  14. Yeah but if we stop to think about it, “psiu” is kind of rude even for us. I don’t like to use this word either. And when I do, usually is to call someone. For example: “hey, psiu, look at me!” Anyway… great post!

  15. Encontrei esta expressão em livro : Yoo-hoo, como interjeição. qual significado dela?

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