Date: Sat, 22 Nov 1997 11:42:08 -0500 From: Ron Butters 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 exchange] 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.