Vocables are fun. Vocables are those words that aren’t quite words like ‘ah’ and ‘oi’ and ‘huh’. They’re normally an approximation of a sound we make in conversation to convey a specific idea.
To me, every vocable has a very specific meaning, and I choose which vocable I use at a specific point in a piece of text very precisely.
So I thought I’d write down what I think lots of different vocables mean in a kind of short dictionary of vocables.
Ow, Argh – Pain
Aw – Adoration
D’aw, D’aww – Excessive Adoration
Ew, Eww – Disgust
Oh – Realisation
Ooh – Titilating Realisation
Ah – Exciting Realisation, Disappointment, Awkward Realisation
Ahh – Nostalgia
Aah – Relaxation
Uh, Um, Er, Erm – Hesitation
Om, Ohm – Meditation
Aha – Surprise
Ha – Cynical Laughter
Hahaha – Continuous Laughter
Bhahaha, Phahaha – Explosive Laughter
Haha – Are you an idiot? No-one laughs like that.
Mhm, Mha, Mwahaha – Evil Laughter
Heh heh, Hehe – Aspiring Evil Laughter
Teehee – Mischievous Laughter
Oi!, Hey! – Critical Interjection
Ey, Eh – Knowing Suggestion
Meh, Eh – Indifference, Apathy
Psst – Whispered Interjection
Pfft – Cynical Rejection
Hmm – Thought
Mmm – Deliciousness
Huh – Confusion
Arr! – Pirates
Zzz – Sleep
I remember learning about apostrophes in primary and secondary school. I remember learning that they could be used to indicate possession with the possessive s – for example, ‘Ben’s blog’. And I remember learning that apostrophes were also used in abbreviations – they denoted letters that had been omitted to make two words shorter.
This is something we all learn in school. But I think something else we learn at the same time is that there is a set of words that are abbreviated in this way (words like I’ve and you’re) and that that’s it – no other words can be abbreviated in this way.
But in the last two years or so, I realised that there really isn’t anything to stop me from using apostrophes to abbreviate more words. (It might not be considered grammatically correct by a number of grammar and spelling aficionados, but I don’t think there’s any point sticking to a rule of grammar if the rule adds nothing to the language.) There are words that I abbreviate when I speak them – sometimes if I want to write a sentence, but convey the same meaning as if I had spoken it, I want to abbreviate the same words.
So I have started doing this – I have started abbreviating other words – beyond the standard set – and here are some of the ones that I use:
In this list there are words which have two apostrophes in them where I’ve smashed together three words. I find this to be delightfully absurd. Two apostrophes is altogether too many apostrophes to have in a word – much the same way that twelve sides is too many sides for a £1 coin to have – and that’s why I think it’s brilliant (and I like the new £1 coin too).
Some of these words even start with apostrophes – also a lot of fun.
It doesn’t save any time writing words like this – I write fewer characters but I spend more time thinking about when to type the apostrophes. I use these abbreviations in order to make what I write more similar to what I say. They can prevent something I write from seeming too formal and stiff.
Microsoft Word complains when I do this, of course, as does my phone when I use these abbreviations in text messages. But I have a lot of idiosyncrasies in my writing, and I’ve long since ignored Word’s opinion of it. (‘Yes Word, I do in fact WANT that line to be a sentence fragment.’)