Podcast: Sounds and Interjections II

Hello, boys and girls, here we are again with another Inglês na Ponta da Língua podcast. Today we have our friend Kristen Hammer talking about the second part of her article on sounds and interjections in English. In case you haven’t read/listened to her first podcast sounds and interjections, click here. Now, let’s listen to her and learn a bunch of other things from her, shall we?

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There was such a good response about the last post I made about interjections that I decided I would write about some more sounds. Today I will write about two of them.

The first one is “umUMmm”. This sound is one of which I haven’t seen anything written: on the Internet, or any other printed materials. I tried and tried to find something, but was unsuccessful.  I’m not even sure how to write it, so I will just write it like this:   “mm-UM-mm”.

It is used in place of the response phrase, “I don’t know!”   The “I don’t know” was first shortened to “I dunno”, and somehow later, I guess people became really lazy in their answer, and it turned out as just a noise, “umUMmm.” This sound is so common in my culture that I really didn’t even think about it before.

Sounds and Interjections in English

As I mentioned in my other posts, my boyfriend doesn’t speak English. When we had conversations, and my response was “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure”, I always said, umUMmm.  It wasn’t until about 6 months ago that I realized “of course he doesn’t know what I’m saying, because, #1, “Não sei” has just two syllables, and #2, isn’t spoken with the same stress on the words.  So, I guess all this time he thought I just was ignoring him and just murmuring some nonsense.

However, in all that time, he never complained at all.  So, unfortunately for me, it took a really long time to figure this out! Example:

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  • Person 1: What time does the store open today?  
  • Person 2: umUMmm


Or (in my case, when someone calls and leaves a message on the phone) my boyfriend asks “Who was it?” or “What did they want?”  My answer: umUMmm.

This sound is not to be used in formal situations, or when you don’t know the person. It can be seen as rude.  Also, if the topic is of a serious nature, it is also impolite to use. Example:

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  • Person 1: So, what’s your opinion about the symbolism in The DaVinci Code? 
  • Person 2: I don’t know!


Said like this, it means you truly have given thought to the subject, and you really don’t have an answer yet.

The second interjection or sound is “Hey”.

I use this sound a lot, and it just kind of pops out of my mouth so naturally, that I forget to use a Brazilian sound.  My boyfriend always wonders why I call out “KING!”, but I’m not saying “rei” the Portuguese word for king. This interjection has many different uses depending on the tone of voice.

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  • It’s used to express surprise: (after being awoken at 2am to find a group of your roommate’s friends having a party) “Hey, what’s going on here?
  • To attract attention:  “Hey, come over here, I have something to show you!” Or “Hey, get down from there; you’re going to get hurt!
  • To show interest: (after seeing a guy open the car door for his girlfriend.)  “Hey, now that’s something that I could get used to.” Or,  (after seeing an interesting YouTube video), “Hey, now that was pretty cool!
  • To show annoyance: “HEY, stop talking so loud, I’m not DEAF!” Or “HEY! Can you please stop interrupting me all the time and just let me talk!
  • To elicit agreement:  “Hey, what do you think about this red dress? Should I buy it or not?”  Or  “Hey, don’t you think it’s time to quit smoking?
  • As a greeting:  “Hey, how’s it going?” Or  “I just called to say “Hey


There certainly are many other uses for this sound, but they just aren’t on “the tip of my tongue” right now. If you can think of other times you’ve heard this sound in English, feel free to comment about them here on the blog. And, as always, if you have questions, just let me know.

Take care.

If you would like information on my classes in Florianopolis, or my classes online, you can contact me at kris10dh@hotmail.com. My Twitter is: @kris10dh, and my Skype is: kris10dh. you can also find me on Facebook, click here to acess my fanpage.

6 Comentários

  1. FANTASTIC, and SO true! I actually use this sound a lot, but only when I’m with my sister and maybe my younger brother because they are both fluent English speakers, and most importantly, they have the cultural American background (we were brought up in the US) so it is different speaking to them than speaking to my Brazilian students.
    I guess when I’m in the US it comes out naturally, but I rarely use it here in Brazil when I speak English.
    Love your posts, always interesting! 🙂

  2. Wonderful post! I really like it!

    I am a brazilian speaker of language and I always find myself using the “hey” interjection. It’s funny because I got so used to it that now it comes out naturally.

    On the other hand, I never ever made the “mm-UM-mm” sound to mean “I don’t know”. I think it’s just weird for us brazilians to use it since we don’t use it in Portuguese.

    Take care!

  3. Ótimo podcast! A voz da Kristen Hammer é muito boa de se ouvir! Já ouvi este podcast várias vezes desde o dia em que o baixei. Muito obrigada!

  4. Eu simplesmente AMEI essas dicas, principalmente a do "mmMMmm". Totalmente inimaginável para mim! Thanks a lot!

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