Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Bah. This is what a Chilean says when he misspeaks. It's not an oops, or an ooof, or even a whoa. It's just bah. Not baaahh, like a sheep, more like you started to say the English word but and it got confused with the sheep sound. A sharper b, a shorter a.

So you're talking, and you say "she works in toilets," but you meant to say "she works in public service". (servicios higienicos/servicios publicos) In the middle, you'd say bah.

Trabaja en servicios higienic-- bah servicios publicos. It's like a tiny verbal eraser that wipes out the last word or two of what you said, there on the listener's memory tape, and lets you start midway through the sentence.

Which gets me thinking. How do we say bah in English? Sometimes it's "I mean," sometimes we feign having a terrible speech impediment making a yyyyy-related sound. But seriously, how do we say bah? Any ideas?

...in case you were wondering, sheep do not say "bah" in Spanish. Nor "baaaah." They say meeeeh (with e like the e in met) or beeeeh (with e like the e in bet). Which is clever, because with bah being such an important word, you can't have people bleating (balando) in the middle of every sentence!


stevensplinter said...

We tend to say it with recursive phrases. "That is to say," "___ that is," "I mean ___." "Umm" followed by the correct phrase spoken with a more forceful accentuation is the closest to "bah" that I can think of.

Layfan said...

I really enjoy your stories.
I love the way you observe every tiny detail about chilean people (and life) and write huge stories about that.

Eileen said...

@layfan thanks so much for the kudos. Nice to know even Chileans can find it endearing!