Date: Sat, 22 Nov 1997 11:42:08 -0500

From: Ron Butters RonButters[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM

Subject: uh&duh

Gregory J. Pulliam writes:

Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?

"_____, Grant."

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)

"Uh, Lincoln?"

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.