Language Matters: The Universal Word

You probably say it every day without even thinking about it.  Someone says something you don’t understand or you didn’t quite hear them correctly, and you utter the common response:


In a new study, researchers argue that “huh” is, in fact, a true word and that it is the only universal word across all languages.

It’s a true word because it isn’t innate — it’s a part of language that must be learned — and it follows the rules of language — you’d have to learn how to say “huh” correctly when you’re learning a new language.

“Huh” also has a true meaning — it’s not just a noise of surprise or confusion.  When you say “huh?” in conversation, you’re expressing a few things at once: you don’t understand something due to lack of knowledge and you’re asking for a response to clarify what you didn’t understand.  All in one tiny syllable.

While the researchers couldn’t study the use of “huh” in every existing language, they did look at 31 dialects from five different continents to gather their data, providing ample evidence of the ubiquity of the word.

What do you think?  Is “huh” really a word?

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