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Eh

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Eh is a spoken interjection.

Although the use of eh is regarded by some as characteristic of Canadian English, most usages of eh are spread throughout the English-speaking world, in the meaning of "Huh?", "What?", "Hey", or "Repeat that, please".

It is an invariant question tag, unlike the "is it?" and "have you?" tags that have, with the insertion of not, different construction in positive and negative questions.

There is some question as to the origin of the term, a popular theory is that the "eh" sound is similar to the "ey" sound that a native French speaker will stereotypically say when pronouncing the word "Hey".

In addition, "eh" can also be used as an exclamation: "He's all right, eh!" This has its origins in Scotland, where it can still be heard.

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Usage in different English speaking countries

Canada

According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary the only usage of eh that is peculiar to Canada is for "ascertaining the comprehension, continued interest, agreement, etc., of the person or persons addressed" as in, "It's four kilometres away, eh, so I have to go by bike."

In that case, eh is used to confirm the attention of the listener and to invite a supportive noise such as "Mm" or "Oh" or "Okay". It essentially is an interjection meaning, "I'm checking to see you're listening so I can continue."

Depending on the speaker's tone or the dialectal standard, eh can also be perceived as rude or impolite, as "Repeat that!", and not a request.

"Eh" can also be added to the end of a declaritive sentance to turn it into a question. For example: "The weather is nice." becomes "The weather is nice, eh?"

See also: Canadian slang, Bob & Doug McKenzie

Australia and the United States

"Eh?" used to solicit agreement or confirmation is also heard regularly amongst speakers of Australian English (where it is sometimes spelled "ay" on the assumption that "eh" would rhyme with "heh" or "meh"). It is also heard in Oklahoma and the New England Region United States. In both places it is also used as a general exclamation as in Scotland.

New Zealand

The term "Eh?" in New Zealand English is, unsurprisingly, similar to that in Australian English, although it is gaining increasing usage. The reason for this is that the term's history is closely connected with the Maori affirmative "Nei". In recent years, this usage has spread rapidly in the poorer parts of New Zealand's main cities (which often have a higher proportion of Maori and Pacific Islander residents, and from there to the general population. Due to its pattern of spread, it is often seen as a social indicator, although - like many speech patterns spread in this way, it has gained popularity rapidly as a fashionable usage. As with Canada, it has also gained widespread use as a stereotype, here representing the speech patterns of urban Maori.

South Africa

The equivalent in South African English is "hey", of Dutch origin.

Similar terms in other languages

Japanese "nee/ne?/naa" are extremely similar, being statement ending particles which solicit or assume agreement, confirmation, or comprehension on the part of the listener.

In Mandarin Chinese, eh (誒 in pinyin: ê4) is a relatively infrequently used exclamation expressing disappointment or affirmation.

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