Date: Sat, 22 Nov 1997 11:42:08 -0500
From: Ron Butters RonButters[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
Gregory J. Pulliam writes:
Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?
I'm 40 and would say "well." But my
15 year old daughter and my 12 year
old son and my 7 year old son wouldn't
say "why" or "well," they'd say (in
the style of Beavis and/or Butthead)
Good answer, but does "Uh" really mean the same thing as both "Well" and
"Why" in this context? Or is "Uh" only a filler that the pragmatic comment to
be carried by the intonation?
1. Q: Did you kill Mrs. Wayne?
A1: Uh, yes/no. (= Why, yes/no.) [certainty about some aspect of the
A2: Uh, yes/no? ( = Well, yes/no.) [uncertainty about . . .]
2. Q: Who is buried in Grant's tomb?
A1: Uh, Grant. (= Why, Grant.)
A2: Uh, Grant? (= Well, Grant.)
6. Do you sleep in the nude?
A1: Uh, yes/no. (=Why, yes.)
A1: Uh, yes/no? (= Well, yes.)
The contemporary situation is further complicated by the form "Duh," which
seems to function in initial position like "why"--but is not used (I think)
unless the speaker feels that she will not insult her audience with so
informal an utterance. Also, speakers do say, "Well, Duh!" And *Duh,
yes/no?" are ill-formed.