The Word Which Unites the World!

The ICAL TEFL Blog

Q: Which word unites the world?
A: Huh?

In English we say, Hello, and in Italian they say, Ciao, and in Greek they say, Gia, and on and on. Even the universal act of greeting has a thousand different forms in a thousand different languages.

But Dutch researchers have claimed to have found a single word which exists in all languages. And that word is Huh.

Huh?

Exactly. Or I could say, “But how could this be?”

According to a report published a few days ago, the researchers examined conversations from 30+ languages across the world and discovered that whenever anyone didn’t quite get what was being said, they used the interjection “Huh,” to ask for clarification. Or a slight variation of it.

Huh?

Yes, it’s true. They claim the word – the use of which is not mastered by children until they are 5 – is necessary for communication. We all need a word which means, “What do you mean?” or, “How can that be?” or some way to tell the speaker that the message they are trying to get across to you isn’t getting across to you properly.

Quite simply humans all had a need so they invented the word, “Huh” which does the job admirably. It’s short, simple, quick, easy to say, easy to hear and just so perfect for the job that every group of humans out there happened to find it fitted the bill perfectly so they adopted it.

Useful Links

Is “Huh?” a Universal Word? – the original article published in Plos One

Interjections‏‎ – words used to interrupt a conversation

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