Welp, sup, yep, yup, nope

« previous post | next post »

This morning, someone sent me a message that began, "Welp, at least word boundaries are respected…".  I had no idea what he meant by the first syllable.  It didn't even seem like a word to me.  Or, I thought, perhaps it's a typo for "well".

Still, I was curious, so I looked around a bit, and found this entry in Merriam-Webster:

"Yes, 'Welp' Is a Real Word:  'Welp' is over 70 years old"

Update: This word was added in March 2018.

Social media is a place where informal language flourishes, which means that lexicographers get to chronicle the exploits of words that don't have much written use in edited prose—words like welp.

Chicago Tribune Tweet:  Welp, here comes the 1st accumulating snowfall of this winter….

Yep, the Chicago Tribune used welp. And yet:

Doug Lambert Tweet:  "Welp" is not a word….

We regret to inform Twitter that welp is a word, even if it's not in the dictionary. Welp is a synonym of the interjection well, which is used to express surprise or signal the beginning of a comment or discussion ("Well, what have we here?" "Well, you're never going to believe this, but…"). But welp has a sense of resignation and finality that well often doesn't have:

Though we have presented quite a bit of informal and recent use, our earliest written use of welp goes back over 70 years. It shows up in a scholarly article on two of welp's linguistic cousins: yep and nope. Well gained that final -p as part of a normal process of articular: the lips come together to stop the sound of well and prepare for the next sound, and some hear that stoppage as a -p. This means it is very common in speech. One linguist went so far as to say that anyone who didn't know what welp meant was probably an alien.

But if we have written evidence of welp that's 70 years old, then why is this a word we're watching and not a word we're defining? Welp. It turns out that when most people throughout the 20th century heard a welp, they rendered it as well—perhaps because it sounds like a dialect pronunciation to most people (though it's not). Welp doesn't even turn up in places where you'd expect to see transcription of "dialectal" or more informal speech. Where it does turn up, and in force, is in informal writing: Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets.

But we're seeing it spread. We've collected evidence for it from books, from newspapers, and from blogs, which means that this word might be a good candidate for entry.

After thinking about "welp" for awhile, other similar words came to mind:  yep, yup, nope, sup — all of them ending with a voiceless bilabial stop, "an unreleased [p] (simulating the sudden closure of the lips at the end of the utterance)". (source)

My favorite example in English is still "sup" < "What's up?", which I heard in a bar full of sailors about fifteen years ago. They were all giving high-fives to each other and saying that. I had absolutely no idea what it meant. I knew that it must be something very common in their English (in fact, it was the most frequently uttered expression in that bar), but I felt so silly not being able to figure out what such a common expression meant. One after another, the sailors would walk by each other and say, usually very casually and perfunctorily, "sup". Finally I had to ask someone, and they looked at me as though I were daft. "Sup, man. Sup." It took me several tries before I found someone who was patient enough to explain to me that it meant "What's up?" Whereupon, I explained, "OMG! How can they understand each other?!" I might have come from another world, for I certainly didn't understand them. (source)

From the derivation described at the beginning of the previous paragraph, we see that the formation of "sup" (s + up) is quite different from the other -p ending words discussed in this post, which are formed by adding an unreleased [p] to the stem (often truncated and / or modified) of a preexisting word.

In any event, these common utterances, some of which are not commonly written and may be questionable as lexical entries, are fascinating examples of how words are executed and transformed in speech.  Another example of the closure process described above is how Persian "chai" arose from Mandarin "cha" because the former eschews open syllables in articulation, for which see Appendix C (on the linguistics of "tea") of Victor H. Mair and Erling Hoh, The True History of Tea (London:  Thames and Hudson, 2009).


Selected readings

"OMG moments induced by allegro forms in Pekingese" (1/26/12)

"Yep and nope" (11/11/10) — only noticed this after I finished writing the above post


  1. Laura Morland said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 7:44 am

    Thanks for a fascinating read. I must be an alien, because I had never seen "Welp" written down before I clicked on your link. And like you, I would have sworn that I'd never heard it, either.

    I'm taking this occasion to revisit the word "Nope." In my personal opinion (I haven't done any kind of ngram research), "nope" is plummeting from the everyday lexicon of U.S. English, and has been for a while. I came to this realization a few years ago, while watching a scene between Cary Grant and the future Princess Grace in To Catch a Thief, wherein he asks her a series of short questions, to each of which she responds, "Nope."

    It may be that that piece of dialogue was written to make her character seem up-to-date, but from my perspective, it reflects a time now long past. (Hmmm… I just discovered that the film was released in the year of my birth, and so that dates me, too!)


  2. Rose Eneri said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 7:59 am

    Whelp, all I could think of was puppies.

    I cannot say I have ever heard "welp."

  3. David Scrimshaw said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 8:05 am

    I'm guessing that you didn't watch a lot of North American TV because the Budweiser "Whassup" commercial came out in 1999. It seemed like it was everywhere to me back then. And I am a non-sports fan in Canada.

  4. Victor Mair said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 8:29 am

    I would have understood "Whassup", but "sup" just floored me.

  5. Victor Mair said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 8:33 am

    Cf. yes sir –> yes siree

  6. milu said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 8:34 am

    I read rather a lot of webcomics, and "welp" feels completely familiar by this point. Or, almost. I don't think I've ever used it myself, because to me it's still tinged with the confusion I felt on first encoutering it, plus I kinda think it's ugly as a grapheme.

    It makes sense that comics, a form that is very dialogue-centric yet can only rely on typography and approximated facial expressions to convey intonation, would put every trick they can find to use to make the speech bubble come alive.

    And indeed "welp" has this very "auditory" quality to it, immediately suggestive of prosody and even facial muscle information I guess?

  7. KeithB said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 8:45 am

    I must be the odd one out, since I use it all the time.

  8. Bloix said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 8:47 am

    Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis's comic novel from 1954, features a smug young villain, Bertrand, who famously makes pompous pronouncements to which he appends the phrase, "you see" – which the hero, Jim, hears as "you sam." Amis: “The vowel sound became distorted into a short ‘a,’ as if he were going to say ‘sat.’ This brought his lips some way apart, and the effect of their rapid closure was to end the syllable with a light but audible ‘m.’ ”

    In the climatic scene, the villain – who is about to steal both the job and the girl that Jim covets -makes a truly infuriating observation – "And I happen to like the arts, you sam" – which provokes the shrieking response, "I'm not Sam, you fool!"

    A 2007 scholarly article on phonetic transcription in Amis's novels observes that the "sam" pronunciation "is similar to that demonstrated by “yup” and “nope” for “yes” and “no.”"

    I would think that the question for determining whether a pronunciation like this qualifies as a "word" turns on the intent of the speaker, not the interpretation of the hearer. Bertrand does not think he is saying the word "sam." Although he would not use the "sam" pronunciation when using the "see" in other contexts, he certainly believes that he is using the common expression "you see."

    On the other hand, people who say "nope," I have no doubt, are well aware that they are not using the word "no" and don't think that "no" and "nope" are the same word.

    So do people who utter the sounds making up "welp" think that they are saying "well," so that welp is merely a phonetic transcription of well? Or are they intentionally making sounds that they intend to be distinct from well?

    The evolution of a new word from an existing word presumably takes time, and there is likely an intermediate emergent period, in which some people view the usage one way, and some another. Where welp stands on the continuum would be worthy of investigation.

  9. Doug said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 8:49 am

    I had never noticed "welp" until this recent SMBC comic:


    I must be linguistically behind the times.

  10. Rodger C said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 8:53 am

    I've certainly known "sup" for more than fifteen years, but I can't say when it replaced "sapnin."

  11. milu said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 9:20 am

    @Doug "I must be linguistically behind the times."
    That is true of most people above the age of 25 ;)

    @Bloix interesting distinction. I mean, if it is used in writing (outside of writing that purports to represent speech, like comics) wouldn't that indicate it's probably used as a separate word, at least sometimes?

    As VHM points out, it's semantically distinct from the more versatile "well" in that it specifically connotes fatalism.

    Is it maybe one of those funny retrofittings where "welp" was coined as semantically equivalent to "well" but with a specific intonation, then because the written version got so popular speakers might now be consciously selecting it as opposed to "well" in speech? And… are these two usages phonologically distinguishable?? I would expect a speaker wanting to produce an unmistakable "welp" to aspiration to their [p] so as to distinguish it from the mere voiceless bilabial end-of-utterance sound.

    Would words like "aight" and "nah" (the lazy version of "alright" and "no") find themselves in the same category?

  12. Philip Taylor said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 9:53 am

    vhm: "I would have understood "Whassup", but "sup" just floored me". I can understand "What's up ?" (and its various foreshortenings) as a question, usually asked (in my experience) when something seems amiss, as in "What's up, child ?" when a youngster is found crying, but I am completely perplexed by the seeming use of the same phrase as a greeting. I have watched a number of Youtube instructional videos, and I am invariably suprised when the narrator starts by saying "What's up". There is no implied question, no rising inflection, it is more of a bald statement, but what does it mean ?

  13. Bloix said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 10:01 am

    "If it is used in writing (outside of writing that purports to represent speech, like comics) wouldn't that indicate it's probably used as a separate word, at least sometimes?"

    The thing is, milu, that online writing, and particularly in social media, a lot the writing purports to represent speech. Note that Victor's quote from the Chicago Tribune is not from the paper itself but from its twitter feed. Victor calls this "informal usage," but it's more than that – it's a more or less conscious "transcription" of speech that is never actually spoken.

    For example, yesterday I sent my son a text wishing him luck on a task he had to complete. Among other things, I wrote "Guh be a walk inna park!" This of course is dad humor. I don't think that guh and inna are "words." It was just me transcribing my own unspoken "speech."

    Was the Trib tweeter doing the same sort of thing?

  14. Brandon said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 10:11 am

    I've used 'welp' all my life. Just speaking from my own usage (and how I've always interpreted others using it), 'welp' is more forceful than 'well' — usually used for resignation, exasperation, anger, or sarcasm, depending on the context. For that matter, it seems to me that this is true of 'nope' and 'yep', as well, although maybe this is more true of 'nope' than 'yep'. I'm much more likely to use 'nope' than 'no' to express active disapproval, and (I think) more likely to use 'yep' than 'yes' if I think the affirmative is obvious.

  15. Mack said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 10:14 am

    How interesting to see this topic twice in one day. On the Stack Exchange 'English Language Usage' site, this question appeared:


    The discussion there centers on the 'P', and provides information not covered here.

  16. Gregory Kusnick said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 10:46 am

    Philip: If someone greets you with "Howdy" or even "How do you do?", you (presumably) don't usually take it as a serious inquiry into the state of your physical or mental health. It's just a polite thing people say on encountering each other.

    "Whassup", "sup", "what's happening" and so on are like that, for the people who use them as greetings. They don't have to mean anything beyond that.

  17. AG said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 10:56 am

    I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone reading this post and some of the replies. "Welp" and "'sup" are as familiar to me as things like "hi" and "bye", "okey-dokey" and "howdy".

    To add another possible example of something like "welp" (and sorry if this is mentioned in a link above, I haven't read them all), what about "one" => "hup" in the military "hup, two three four"?

  18. Scott P. said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 11:00 am

    I agree with AG. I'm surprised so many people here have never heard 'welp'. Maybe it's regional? Because I'd say that I use it most of the time (verbally or written) when 'well' as an interjection occurs at the beginning of a sentence.

    Next you folks are going to say you've never heard anyone say "anyhoo."

  19. Philip Taylor said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 11:24 am

    "anyhoo" — I can imagine a Scot saying it, especially those that speak "refined" Lallans, but no other group immediately comes to mind.

    "what's up" v. "how do you do ?" — well, the British (at least) have been using "How do you do ?" as a greeting for over 150 years, so I have grown up accustomed to the fact that the only acceptable answer is "How do you do ?" (and certainly not "Fine, thank you, how are you ?") but for how long have (some) people been using "what's up" as a greeting rather than as

  20. Philip Taylor said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 11:26 am

    "anyhoo" — I can imagine a Scot saying it, especially those that speak "refined" Lallans, but no other group immediately comes to mind.

    "what's up" v. "how do you do ?" — well, the British (at least) have been using "How do you do ?" as a greeting for over 150 years, so I have grown up accustomed to the fact that (a) it is a greeting, not a question, and (b) the only acceptable answer is "How do you do ?" (and certainly not "Fine, thank you, how are you ?"). But for how long have (some) people been using "what's up" as a greeting rather than as a question ? Other than on Youtube videos, I have never heard it used in real life — where is it so used, and by whom ?

  21. Philip Taylor said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 11:29 am

    Apologies, I did not realise that the earlier partial comment had been submitted.

  22. Peter KB said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 11:48 am

    I would guess that "welp" is actually a descendant of "gulp" – same meaning of anxiety and minor fear, at least as I've seen it used.

  23. david said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 11:50 am

    @AG “hup” is used in the circus to coordinate an effort. It is thought to come from “allez-oop” or “go up” when a group of people are lifting something or somebody.

  24. Scott P. said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 11:57 am

    "anyhoo" — I can imagine a Scot saying it,

    "Anyhoo" is different than "anyhow," at least as I use it and have seen others use it, though they are the same word at its root. "Anyhow" is an adverb. "Anyhoo" is an interjection, found almost exclusively at the start of a sentence, meaning "well, that's enough of that, let's get on with a different topic."

  25. David Marjanović said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 12:34 pm

    Other than on Youtube videos, I have never heard it used in real life — where is it so used, and by whom ?

    Welp, in the US, probably. That's also where how are you (with various phonetic reductions) has become a very common greeting.

    (…not that I'll ever actually understand that and stop answering it.)

  26. Jerry Friedman said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 12:37 pm

    I think I first heard "'Sup" about 40 years ago, but I was under 25 then. The earliest I can find at Google Books is from 1992.

    "Welp" has been familiar to me since childhood, and I'm a bit surprised Prof. Mair hadn't heard, since I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, not all that far from his home. I don't think I say it, but I feel it's for the brisker senses of "Well". "Welp, I've got to get going," but "Well… I don't know if I'd put it that way."

  27. Biscia said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 12:49 pm

    Sup was definitely very common in AAVE as far back as the early ‘90s and I’m guessing since earlier than that. (@milu: aight is also originally AAVE, not “lazy.”) I’ve been living outside of the US since the late ‘90s but began to notice anyhoo online in about 2007, primarily from white 25-to-50-year old women, although I noticed it because the only other person I’d heard use it till then was my grandmother (Midwestern, born 1908). I use yep and nope regularly but am very conscious that it identifies me as middle-aged. Welp I have never actually heard in the wild in a way that I identified it as differing from well, and I’m grateful for this post because I have to admit that although I’ve been seeing it online for at least the last seven years, I’d never looked it up and always misinterpreted it, thinking it had a nuance of help. That is, rather than resignation it sounded to me like a kind of “oh God, we’re screwed,” and the terrible thing is that until now that seemed to make sense in every single context where I saw it.

  28. Bloix said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 1:02 pm

    Anywoo is Midwestern for whatevs.

  29. Bloix said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 1:03 pm

    "You meant anyhoo, not anywoo!"

  30. Ross Presser said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 1:28 pm

    Greeting someone with "What's up?" is exactly equivalent, in feel at least if not in perfect translation, to the Spanish "Que pasa?" ("What's happening?"). Other near equivalent glosses might be "Good to see you! What's new with you today?" or "I'm bored, what is going on around here that I could get in on?"

    The shorter form "Sup?" is less of a question though than a declaration that you've joined the gathering. It's like "I see you and I'm glad about it."

    "Que pasa?" dates *at least* back to the 1970s — the TV show "Chico and the Man" introduced that to me when I was under 10 years old.

  31. linda ssebach said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 1:29 pm

    I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone say "welp" but if someone did say it on purpose, I'd probably have heard it as "well" since the context would be similar. But I see it online frequently, and the sense is well + something negative – "welp, I didn't mean to say that" = well+ oops, say. I thought it was a portmanteau.

    You might write "welp, I've been laid off" but not "welp, I got the job!"

  32. Anubis Bard said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 1:46 pm

    I'm pretty sure I've always used "welp" and exactly in that mode of finality and resignation. I like the idea that it's akin to nope, yup and yep, which is a pattern I'd never noticed. As I think about others that might be lurking in the linguistic landscape, I wonder if there is a version of "sure" that fits the pattern. When I say the word in that mode of finality, I sense my lips closing in a pseudo "p" quite different from my usual pronunciation. Yet, I'm sure (without a p) that no one ever wrote "sherp!" But they could have.

  33. Anubis Bard said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 1:57 pm

    The evidence against sherp is that unlike the others, it doesn't survive in the middle of a clause, like "yep, I do," or "nope, I don't" or "welp, I'm done." There's no, "sherp, I'm on board." Ah well. I retract my hypothesis . . . .

  34. Tim Leonard said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 2:09 pm

    One other version of "yup" replaces the final "p" with a glottal stop, and another version does the same, but starts with "aye".

  35. Jim said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 2:10 pm

    Mostly in the south I think (and as a southerner, I can attest to), you will hear "el" quite a bit for well in similar fashion as "welp" (think Andy Griffith saying "el, Barn…"). "Welp" seems more resigned ("Welp, there you go…") and "El" is more mild confusion or surprise (El, I never"), but I have always thought of both as substituting for "Well".

  36. Victor Mair said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 2:37 pm

    @Jerry Friedman

    I left northeastern Ohio for parts far removed in 1961.

  37. Victor Mair said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 2:43 pm

    @Scott P.

    I've heard a lot of people say "anyhoo", and I have one friend who signs all of her e-mails "toodle loo", but I never heard anyone say / write "welp" until this morning.

  38. John Rohsenow said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 2:49 pm

    1. To the best of my recollection I have never seen nor heard 'welp' in my life that I can remember. (And?/but? I am over 70).
    2, For those Americans (majority) who no longer make the 'which witch" distinction, 'welp' would presumably be homophonous with 'whelp', as in 'you young whelp'.(Also, how many of those who can understand, if not actually USE 'whelp' at least as a noun, associate it with puppies?)
    3. I am tempted to ask Victor and other Sinologists if 'welp'.yep/yup' and 'nope' were the original RU-SHENG (older final stop) forms from which Well (interj), yes, and No are derived. (Vs. the 'sup forms which are contracted lexicals.) But I shall try to restrain myself ;-)

  39. DBMG said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 3:01 pm

    I've always taken the p in "welp" as a staccato indication, as it were, like the terminal っ in Japanese interjections, rather than an actual articulated p.

  40. Scott P. said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 3:24 pm

    I never heard anyone say / write "welp" until this morning.

    Welp, now you have.

    I thought it was fairly common knowledge (among linguists at least) that the final stop of yep, nope, and welp were related. I am not a linguist and I knew it. :-) Apart from variations of the above, I am not sure of any other examples.

  41. Scott P. said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 3:26 pm

    Here is an interesting article on "ope." Comments welcomed:


  42. David T. said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 3:52 pm

    I suspect it's regional — growing up in the Midwest in the 80s, "welp" was in pretty common usage. People I know from there (including adjacent Canadians) use it not just in speech, but in written conversation.

    I suspect it does have some links with the aforementioned "ope", but that word is odd in that Midwesterners don't recognize they even say it until you point it out to them. It's in the category of "well, that's just the natural sound you make when you bump into someone". Kind of like the "when you get wet sound" in Japanese.


  43. Ellen K. said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 4:27 pm

    Welp/whelp in the baby animal meaning makes me think of seals. Not sure why seals in particular.

  44. Chester Draws said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 4:28 pm

    Would words like "aight" and "nah" (the lazy version of "alright" and "no")

    I could go with "nah" being lazy, but it isn't a lazy form of "no". Indeed, since both are exactly the same amount of effort to say, it's hard to see the difference being due to "laziness" if they are exact synonyms?

    If someone asks me if I like something, then a reply of "no" means absolutely not, and "nah" means not really. For extreme indifference, I might even use "nah, yeah, nah".

    A kid round my way who wanted to express a total no, would have to say "nah-ah", because "nah" just doesn't have anything like the right emphasis.

    And all the people who say "nah" habitually, are quite willing to say "no" when that's what they actually mean.

  45. Philip Taylor said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 4:45 pm

    Chester, I interpret "laziness" in a different sense to you in contexts such as this. For me, "laziness" in speech is not physical, it is mental — the speaker who uses "lazy" forms of speech is, to my mind, not willing to make the effort to learn to speak properly, and/or, having learned to speak properly, not willing to make the effort to do so. That is certainly how "lazy" was used when I was (for example) learning to read out loud, and it was very strongly discouraged.

  46. KevinM said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 7:23 pm

    For what it's worth (worp?), it sounds perfectly natural to me. U.S., NE Amtrak corridor, b. 1954.

  47. anonymouse said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 7:37 pm

    "Aight" is not lazy in any sense. In the contexts in which it is used, it conveys a different meaning from "all right." It's the same with "nah" vs. "no."

    re: "nope"- I had no idea it was a middle-aged thing. "Nope" as a verb (as in "nope out") is an internet thing, right?

    I've been hearing "Sup" all my life. It makes about as much sense as "How do you do?" as a greeting. Actually, it makes more sense because if you were a socially daft teenager raised by a non-native English speaker, like I was, "How do you do?" sounds like a real question that demands an answer, but "sup" doesn't.

  48. Tom said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 9:04 pm

    Interpreting the use of vernacular like "nah" or "aight" as lazy, and claiming this is because the person uttering the slang was too lazy to learn to speak properly strikes me as at least classist, regardless of the location of the person making the claim, and as explicitly racist in the US. The notion that there's a proper way to speak and that other ways to speak are lazy has been used as a cudgel against poor people and people of color for generations.

    I am also surprised at how rigid many people's conception of the English language is in this comment section. Language can change rapidly, but it's the surprise from commenters that words or constructions from other registers (I am not sure if I'm using this term correctly – but I mean, for example, African American Vernacular English) are, well, English words or constructions that I find jarring.

  49. Chips Mackinolty said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 9:53 pm

    @ Ross Presser
    "What's up" and What's happening" are very common inAustralia English–and I doubt have any connection to Spanish. "Sup?" is very common. As well, though, we have "Sappenin? "Sup?" often has the sense of being aware there is something wrong with/to the other person. "Sappenin?" is more a general greeting.

    @ Victor Mair, a more general question. Do ngrams and the like monitor language as used in cartoon balloons? Or just in printed text? I wondered in terms of such words appearing in comics may be different from elsewhere

  50. AG said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 10:19 pm

    @David –

    Are you trying to point out that you think soldiers are saying "[ALLEY-OOP AS USED IN THE CIRCUS], two, three, four" as they are marching?

    OK, that's certainly possible, but I would think that on the contrary they are probably counting, and that "one" has mutated into "hup". I haven't done any research on the matter, though, just armchair theorizing.

  51. AG said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 10:30 pm

    … (to continue my previous comment) two data points that just occurred to me are 1) football players' saying "hut one, hut two" – which might go with David's definition of "hup", but then on the other hand 2) military "atten-HUT", in which the syllable "-tion" morphs into hut or hup, which would possibly indicate that "one" in "one, two, three, four" might also conceivably have become HUP/HUT-ified.

  52. Andy Stow said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 10:33 pm

    When I lived in rural Tennessee for a couple of years, I was taught the three-syllable phrase for lunchtime.

    Jeeyet? Squeet.

    Did you eat yet? Let's go eat.

  53. Ben Zimmer said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 11:30 pm

    See also the 2012 article on Slate by Katie Kilkenny, "Where Did the Expression 'Welp' Come From?," which quotes Jesse Sheidlower, Grant Barrett, Lauren Ackerman, and me. It also includes a bit of Dwight Bolinger's 1946 paper in American Speech, "Thoughts on 'Yep' and ‘Nope.'"

  54. Antonio L. Banderas said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 1:42 am


    According to the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, "When used as an interjection (but not otherwise) WELL has an occasional weak form /wəl/". What about "welp" ?

  55. Antonio L. Banderas said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 1:47 am

    NOPE (nəʊp), adv. slang (orig. U.S.). Extended form of "no" adv.3 Cf. "yep".
    ‘I suppose you will be a literary man, like your father, when you grow up.’ ‘Nope,’ said the little boy‥‘Literary nuthin'! I'm goin' to be a ten-thousand-dollar cook.’
    1888 N.Y. Life 12 May, Cover 3/2

    According to the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary:
    NOPE /noʊp/ —usually said with the /p/ unreleased

  56. Fred said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 2:07 am

    Very familiar with welp, yup, sup and all the rest. What about the newly-noticed/newly-discussed "Ope!"?

  57. Erin said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 2:49 am

    I'm in my mid 30s in SoCal. I say "sup" all the time. My chin automatically goes up when i say it, even as i said it aloud to myself just now. You say it with a chin nod (upward), as kinda a greeting/ acknowledgement.

    I've occasionally used "welp," i picked it up from my college roomie. It is indeed like "well," but with a sense of resignation. Usually paired with a pop of air at the end. But if you type it in a chat message, it has a cute affectation.

  58. David Morris said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 3:18 am

    I had a (young female) US colleague in South Korea who greeted us with 'What up?'.

  59. Philip Taylor said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 3:42 am

    Tom — "Interpreting the use of vernacular like "nah" or "aight" as lazy, and claiming this is because the person uttering the slang was too lazy to learn to speak properly strikes me as at least classist […]".

    I don't think that my primary school teachers were the least bit "classist", and I have no reason to think that they might have been racist, but as my class had only two non-English pupils that is not something that I would have been in a position to judge. Rather than being "classist", they were being realistic — Great Britain was (and is) a highly class-conscious society, and my teachers${}^{1}$, recognising this, did everything in their power to prevent their pupils from being discriminated against on the basis of their south-east London accents. They did this by encouraging the use of, if not RP, then as near to RP as we were capable of.

    As to "explicitly racist in the US", let me ask you a question, if I may ? Do you believe that Barack Obama would have been elected had he spoken what is now termed "AAVE" ? I , for one, do not. Whether he deliberately changed his accent (as did our Margaret Thatcher) or whether he was fortunate enough to have been brought up in a family that spoke properly, I have no idea, but there is little doubt in my mind that speaking Afro-American Vernacular English, whilst appropriate in certain communities, is unlikely to favour the speaker if he or she seeks high office.
    ${}^{1}$ These teachers were, in the main, educating working-class children : my father, for example, was a London 'bus driver who supplemented his meagre income by cleaning windows in his "spare" time just to keep a roof over his family's heads and food on their table.

  60. Gerd Duerner said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 6:19 am

    "Well gained that final -p as part of a normal process of articular: the lips come together to stop the sound of well and prepare for the next sound, and some hear that stoppage as a -p."

    Okay, that part has me confused.
    When I sound out "Well" I end on a open mouth movement and unless I smack my lips afterwards I can't fathom how anybody might hear a "P" sound at the end?

  61. Rodger C said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 9:14 am

    what about "one" => "hup" in the military "hup, two three four"?


  62. AG said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 9:21 am

    Gerd – ? – just say "well played" but, er, don't say "played".

  63. Moosh said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 10:04 am


    I tend to associate verbal "nope" with the internet, though I'm not sure if that's because it's internet-specific or because the internet is where linguistic innovations tend to show up first these days.

    (For those who aren't familiar with verbal "nope", an example would be "My date was going really well, but then he started talking about how Sumerian was really just an archaic form of Basque, so I pretended I was going to the restroom and then noped the hell out of the restaurant.")

    Given Laura Morland's earlier comment that "nope" seems to be declining in frequency, I suspect that there's a long-running semantic shift in which the word goes from a simple variant of "no" to a forceful rejection of something unpleasant. That increased specificity would explain both the declining frequency of the word and how it made the leap to the verbal form.

    Another amusing example of the strengthening of "nope" comes from the excellent webcomic Stand Still Stay Silent, which at one point introduced a terrifying ghost that took the form of an eight-legged horse. Fans immediately named the ghost "Sleipnope", which is nonsensical if "nope" is just a variant of "no", but makes perfect sense if it has the narrower meaning of "rejecting something unpleasant."

  64. Scott P. said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 10:55 am

    When I sound out "Well" I end on a open mouth movement and unless I smack my lips afterwards I can't fathom how anybody might hear a "P" sound at the end?

    That's the idea — you say it and then quickly cut it off by shutting your mouth. It might sound more or less as a 'p' depending on how abrupt you do it.

    And it wasn't until reading that article on 'ope' that I realized I do that too — I had never visualized it that way, never having seen it in print before.

  65. Philip Taylor said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 11:37 am

    It seems to me that if one closes one's mouth to quickly shut off a "well", one would be more likely to end up saying /welm/ than /welp/ — the latter would require partially opening the mouth again, would it not ?

  66. Y said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 3:08 pm


    Adding to SMBC, another welp in medieval-themed comics:
    (third strip, "For the Glory of Love").

    In both cases, it seems the "well" is spoken with a strong falling sentence-final intonation, which is associated with the lip closure.

  67. David Morris said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 5:29 pm

    After reading this and learning the word 'welp' for the first time, I encountered it somewhere else soon after. If anything, I would expect that 'welp' had an element of surprise, probably because of associations with 'yelp' or 'help'.

  68. nobody said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 5:40 pm

    "Welp" has been in use at least since 2008 on SomethingAwful (that's where it's first documented), but probably predates that by quite a long time.

  69. nobody said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 5:41 pm

    Forgot to include its definition, which is "Strange long-running goon meme, usually substituted instead of 'well.' For instance, 'Welp that about does it.'"

  70. Chester Draws said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 6:48 pm

    did everything in their power to prevent their pupils from being discriminated against on the basis of their south-east London accents.

    Which has absolutely nothing to do with London accents being "lazy".

    Upper class British slang was full of abbreviated forms of words ("champers" for champagne, "varsity" for university etc). Why do those not indicate that the speaker is lazy?

  71. Matt said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 10:14 pm

    @Phillip Taylor:

    [Note: I am aware I am perhaps arguing against a straw man I have built, so apologies if you feel I am stretching your intended meaning with my counter arguments below]

    “whether he was fortunate enough to have been brought up in a family that **spoke properly**…” (emphasis mine)

    Surely, you can hear the inherent classism and negative judgement associated with a statement like that, where the only “proper” speech is the one you are familiar with?

    You may well be right about the electability of a candidate who speaks AAVE, but that is a reflection of the prejudices of the electorate, not any laziness on the part of the candidate. You only need to look to the current president to see that “laziness in speech” is not a barrier to electability, so any barrier an AAVE candidate may face must instead be class- or race-based.

    And while I can understand that a part of the education system should aim to help students understand such societal context and the difference between formal and informal registers (even then, it shouldn’t be done through shaming with terms such as “lazy”), surely it is at least as incumbent on members of society to recognises and correct their own prejudices.

    To defend such prejudice by saying “but that is how I was taught decades ago” merely locks in such prejudice, and implies an inability to learn from your own experiences and decades of societal progress.

  72. kestrel said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 10:39 pm

    Obviously, you don't read the Welp City News, the newsletter from the Hooten Hallers. You should.

  73. Ellen K. said,

    May 30, 2020 @ 10:40 pm

    Not relevant to the main discussion here, but Obama's parents were not African American (a white American and a black Kenyan), so they wouldn't have been AAVE speakers.

  74. Philip Taylor said,

    May 31, 2020 @ 1:38 am

    Chester, there was no suggestion (on my part) that accents are (or can be) lazy — it is the speakers who are lazy, if they cannot be bothered to learn to speak properly. If, however, they choose not to speak properly, then that is another matter entirely (see Royal example below). The London accent is not "lazy", by definition — it is simply uncultured.

    Matt, thank you for your reasoned response, and no, you are not arguing against a straw man. My beliefs were inculcated in me at an early age, and whilst there may well have been decades of "societal <something>", I am not convinced that that "something" is necessarily progress. There was a time when one could take a pride in "speaking properly", but these days at least one minor member of the Royal family has elected to use estuary English in preference to high RP, and I cannot see how that can in any way be regarded as "progress". How anyone can prefer /bɛʔə/ to / ˈbet ə/, /ˈbɒʔ ɫ/ to /ˈbɒt əl/, or /ˈnʌ fɪŋk/ to /ˈnʌ θɪŋ/, is beyond me.

  75. Kennedy said,

    May 31, 2020 @ 8:46 am

    Philip Taylor: Regarding "what's up?" as a greeting, it seems to me to be perfectly analogous to "y'aright", which is quite commonly used as an informal greeting throughout the UK.

  76. Philip Taylor said,

    May 31, 2020 @ 9:17 am

    Kennedy — Not familiar with "y'aright" per se but I have certainly heard (e.g.,) /ɔːɫ raɪʔ/ (or /ɔːɫ waɪʔ/) as a greeting, but in my experience it is always a greeting-question and an answer is expected, even if that answer is only "Fine, thanks" or similar. In your experience, is the standard answer to "y'aright" also "y'aright", or the null answer, or something else ?

    Because "what's up ?", in my experience, is used only when something is thought to be amiss, it just seems very odd to me that it should have become a stylised greeting.

  77. Matt said,

    May 31, 2020 @ 10:04 am

    At the risk of drifting a little too far off topic…

    @Phillip Taylor: “whilst there may well have been decades of "societal ", I am not convinced that that "something" is necessarily progress”…

    Without knowing exactly which era you were brought up in, I could hazard a guess that if it was the 70s or earlier, then your 40+ year-old teachers most likely developed their attitudes to race/class and language before the US civil rights movement, and before aboriginal people were allowed to vote here in Australia.

    I know those examples don’t directly apply to you (although I suspect there are British parallels) and that your opinions are perhaps more strongly influenced by class than race, but I would hope you would agree that in comparison, movement towards respecting other groups as *different rather than inferior* is “progress”, even if you have a personal dislike for some associated (or perhaps peripheral) language shifts.

    “these days at least one minor member of the Royal family has elected to use estuary English in preference to high RP”

    I confess to knowing nothing about the royal family (I have no idea which member you are referring to), relatively little about RP, and I had to google “Estuary English”.

    But Wikipedia contains estimates that somewhere between 3-10% of British are native RP speakers. To put that particular accent up on a pedestal based solely on traditional wealth/power/class structures strikes me as cultural cringe.

    Like everyone, I hear accents that I find more and less appealing to my ears, but I try to view that as my problem rather than make a judgement about the speaker.

    Do you feel that ~90% of Brits should aspire to an accent that isn’t their own, and if so, why? To whose benefit?

  78. Philip Taylor said,

    May 31, 2020 @ 10:33 am

    Matt, thank you for your comments and questions. To clarify : I started school at age five in 1952, and left school at age 16 in 1963. I am 100% in favour of respecting other groups as "different rather than inferior", and just wish that the British (as a whole) weren't so d@mned insular and xenophobic. I believe that local accents are admirable and that those lucky enough to have been born with one should feel pride in it rather than any other emotion. But whilst the vast majority of British accents are pleasing to the ear, even to those born as far from that accent's origin as is physically possible, there are some that just grate. And the south-east London / eastuary English accents are (to my mind) two of those. I gave examples earlier, I have no need to repeat them. But even though I was born in south-East London, those who ask where I come from tell me that they would never know from my accent : "home counties" is the usual analysis. And I owe that fact to three groups. One, my mother, who would always correct my English if I slipped into the local patois, and who regularly cautioned me about the undesirability of sounding "common" (her exact words); two, my school teachers (Days Lane, Montbelle, Deansfield, Colfes), who, like my mother, understood only too well the social disadvantages of sounding common; and three, my first boss, a minor member of the landed gentry, whom I instinctively adopted as a rôle model when it came to speech. So, I think I can say, with some justification, that I was not "lazy", in the sense in which I have used it here. I went out of my way to try to speak correctly, the Queen's English, not in high-RP (because that would have sounded ludicrous, given where I lived) but equally not in the south-east London accent that many of my peers adopted and retained. So to answer your final question, no, I do not feel that "~90% of Brit[on]s should aspire to an accent that isn’t their own", but I do feel that the relatively small minority who appear to delight in the use of the glottal stop, of dark-Ls, of /f/ rather than /θ/, of terminal /ɪŋk/ where the LPD would suggest /ɪŋ/, could usefully aspire somewhat higher. CC'd to a friend, a retired headmistress, to seek her views.

  79. Philip Taylor said,

    May 31, 2020 @ 11:31 am

    I should have added (the phrase only came back to me after I had pressed "Submit" and was doing something else) that the exact phrase that my mother would use was "you sound just like a common little guttersnipe". I had no idea then, and have only a vague idea today, what a guttersnipe is, but I knew that I did not want to sound like one.

  80. Jason M said,

    May 31, 2020 @ 1:53 pm

    Think this conversation could be enhanced with a little additional data from a recent hip-hop song by E-40 (warning: misogyny, gun and illegal drug references). The song, “Choices (yup)” is a whole series of paired questions, with the first question answered by an emphatic “yup” and then its mirror question with equally emphatic “nope”. The non aspirated “p” at the end of each is clearly for the emphasis. So it doesn’t seem that “nope” is archaic in AAVE anyway unless it’s died in the last 4 years.

    E-40 doesn’t say “welp” in this song though!

    Anyhoo…. I’d also like to add to the chorus that has always heard this..uh..word? pronunciation of “well”? But I grew up and have lived all over the US and abroad, so I don’t know where I got it from. Northern US midwestern ancestral roots maybe?

  81. milu said,

    May 31, 2020 @ 2:34 pm

    woo, i was offline for a couple days and hey look at this comment section!

    Thanks to Biscia and a couple others who pointed at flaws and possible racism in my hasty (lazy!) comment throwing in "aight" and "nah" and calling them "lazy versions of alright and no".

    What I had in mind was actually not the AAVE version of "aight" but the way I (as a white globish speaker) might exaggeratedly lengthen and open the initial /ɑ/ to something like [æ:] or [ææ] and just drop the /r/ to signify a kind of low-commitment or even grudging consent.

    And I didn't mean "lazy" as a judgment on the speaker, but rather semantically, as an emotional connotation of those terms, or rather of the specific intonation of those terms that is encoded in the sort of quasi-phonetic spellings I proposed.

    But yeah, this was oversimplified and clumsy and hey, possibly offensive it turns out. oop!

    Anyway, I was just fishing for other examples of this sort of graphemes that fall somewhere in the fuzzy area between alternative spellings of common words meant to encode intonation (as when one writes "I knooooow" to suggest annoyance), and semantically distinct variants that started out as alternative spellings (as with the now fully-verbed "nope").

  82. milu said,

    May 31, 2020 @ 3:08 pm

    @Philip Taylor: Surely you can see that calling an accent "grating" is entirely a matter of personal taste? Saying speakers are more likely to be discriminated against in job interviews, now that's more likely to be verifiable. Further, I wonder whether you think it a coincidence that the accents you find the most displeasing are those closest to the one you yourself worked hard to rid yourself of?

    As an aside, I personally listen to quite a bit of London hip hop so while I am not fluent in the refined intricacies of British dialectal geography, the examples you give for estuary English sound, as best I can tell, like the sort of accent in which some of my favourite songs are sung, so I'm sure I for one don't find that accent in any way aesthetically inferior to RP…

  83. Philip Taylor said,

    May 31, 2020 @ 3:44 pm

    Milu, I would accept that it is a matter of personal taste, but not entirely a matter of personal taste, because the accent is widely mocked as demonstrating "thickness" on the part of the speaker. And no, although I can see the reason for your suggestion that there might be a correlation between my views on the accent and the trouble that I took not to acquire it (and to try to lose what vestiges remained), the fact remains that many who were not in that situation share my views about its unpleasantness — the south London accent has been looked down on for some considerable time, as evidenced (for example) by not-infrequent sarcastic references to "Sarf London". As to hip-hop, it is not a genre with which I am familiar, so I have no way of knowing whether or not it exemplifies estuary English.

    Incidentally, the maternal side of my family originate from Maldon, in Essex, and when I used to visit Maldon as a child, the older residents has a marked (and delightful) Essex accent. Estuary English has now completely taken over, and from the accent one can no longer tell whether one is in Maldon or in Mile End …

  84. milu said,

    May 31, 2020 @ 5:29 pm

    OK, we'll probably end up disagreeing. I think really it would be helpful to hear from speakers of South London English how they feel about their own dialect, and whether they feel like it deserves any of the sneering it receives from other speakers.

    (Also, after doing a bit of research earlier, I find most of hip-hop I listen to uses Multicultural London English. Anyway.)

    I'll just say that in my experience, at least where I'm from (France), the typical targets of linguistic ridicule tend to be working/lower-middle-class, and/or the uneducated, and/or immigrants and their descendants… so you understand my suspicion, I hope.

    Thus when I wrote that aesthetic judgements on accents are entirely matters of personal taste, I'd like to asterisk that and point out that "personal taste" is frequently determined by class hierarchies. So there's a possible reason we might both be unsurprised to find your judgment on South English aligning with a lot of other people's.

  85. Uly said,

    May 31, 2020 @ 5:54 pm

    I've been familiar with welp for a while, but I always thought of it as internet speak.

    Just today somebody linked me to this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7APP2z1yqU

    There it is, an audible "Welp, I've seen enough" in a 1984 movie.

  86. Jonathan Silk said,

    June 1, 2020 @ 1:55 am

    @Victor Mair
    OK, maybe I'm obssessing about this kind of thing, but:
    Victor wrote:
    "After thinking about "welp" for awhile [?read a while?], other similar words came to mind"
    I don't think this can count as a SPAR (which was earlier referenced in the context of another syntatic example I had trouble parsing, in a different thread, from which my comments seems to have been removed), can it?
    Maybe what troubles me is that the agent of the gerund and the main verb are different, and my sense is that this should not happen.

  87. outeast said,

    June 1, 2020 @ 3:32 am

    Interesting to hear the many perspectives. I've been a "welp" user for years, first in writing but (no idea for how long) in speech too. I certainly picked it up from the written word online. I find it very useful: unlike yep, nope and the like, it has a clearly distinct meaning from its unpopped root.

    I'd hypothesise that even if "welp" began as a swallowed or cut off pronunciation of "well", as posited here, it's now grown into a distinct word. Population sample size of one here but when I use "welp" in speech I'm actually saying a very definite (sometimes even explosive) /p/.

    (Incidentally, PeterK above mentioned an association with "gulp"; for me, the association has always been "yelp". I don't think there's an etymological link but such associations probably help to make it more intuitively understandable.)

  88. outeast said,

    June 1, 2020 @ 3:45 am

    @ milu

    "What I had in mind was actually not the AAVE version of "aight" but the way I (as a white globish speaker) might exaggeratedly lengthen and open the initial /ɑ/ to something like [æ:] or [ææ] and just drop the /r/ to signify a kind of low-commitment or even grudging consent."

    If I get you, you're saying you meant "lazy pronunciation" not as "careless/lazy diction" but as "a pronunciation deliberately expressing carelessness/laziness"? If so, you're talking about a pronunciation that deliberately modifies a word to increase its informational content. That strikes me as being pretty much the opposite of lazy or careless diction.

  89. milu said,

    June 1, 2020 @ 4:50 am

    I shouldn't have used the word "lazy", it's got baggage and is not typically used to describe an internal state, but rather an external judgement.

    I meant "reluctant/noncomittal", hope that's less confusing.

    "If so, you're talking about a pronunciation that deliberately modifies a word to increase its informational content. That strikes me as being pretty much the opposite of lazy or careless diction."

    I'm not sure what your point is, but I'll just say, 1. that my comment was just completely unfounded speculation, so this is awkward and I hope to not have to explain what I meant any longer beyond this one comment,
    2. that I was hoping to point to a grapheme for this sort of alternative phonetic spelling but "aight" doesn't actually work that, I neglected to notice that it's long been claimed by AAVE and is not, in fact, a reluctant or noncomittal "alright",
    3. you could argue that lengthening the vowel and dropping the /l/ and the /r/ possibly requires less muscle energy (I can imagine saying it while yawning like) though to be clear I made no such claim,
    4. that even if it's the case that /ææ:jt/ takes more effort than /ɑ:lraɪt/ that wouldn't be especially surprising or even noteworthy, because famously, language arbitrarily connects a signifier to a signified, so "expressing carelessness" does not have to have anything to do with actual carelessness necessarily.

  90. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    June 1, 2020 @ 11:38 am

    @Philip Taylor: "a London 'bus driver "

    What's the apostrophe for? (asks the woman who used to always write 'phone)

  91. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    June 1, 2020 @ 11:41 am

    Re Welp: I've heard it used in speech & seen it used in informal internet writing since the mid-90s, but I hung around with gamers and other computer geeks. Ditto "aight".

    As opposed to yep & nope, which have been a lifelong part of my idiolect (b. 1969).

  92. Philip Taylor said,

    June 1, 2020 @ 12:24 pm

    Michèle — is that a serious question ? If so, then « 'bus » <- « omnibus ». My late father worked for the London General Omnibus Company, although it was renamed "London Transport" not too long after he joined in 1933 or thereabouts.

  93. maidhc said,

    June 1, 2020 @ 6:17 pm

    "Bus" is particularly annoying to pedants because it has no intrinsic meaning. It's just an adjective ending. "Bus" could just as easily stand for "pluribus" or anything else. It's like saying "hood" for "neighbourhood", when it could just as easily stand for "knighthood" or "livelihood".

    At least when you say "phone" for "telephone", you're preserving at least part of the semantic content. (Why don't we say "vision" for "television"?) Or another bugbear of the 19th century pedant, "mob".

    I suppose one could make the same complaint about 'cello.

  94. Philip Taylor said,

    June 2, 2020 @ 2:20 am

    Your other objections I can understand, Maidhc, but what is your objection to "mob" ? It has the very quality that is lacking in your other examples, in that it preserves a part of the semantic content (the mobile of mobile vulgus), not a part of the qualifying adjective vulgus.

  95. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    June 2, 2020 @ 8:59 am

    Philip — Yes, it was a serious question. I only know the word omnibus as it relates to books, so it never occurred to me in this context. I was wondering if you somehow, for whatever reason, were shortening autobus.

    maidhc & Philip — I shall henceforth call a mob a 'gus. Lol (j/k)

  96. ktschwarz said,

    June 2, 2020 @ 5:20 pm

    (OP) After thinking about "welp" for awhile, other similar words came to mind…

    @Jonathan Silk: Yes, that's another dangling modifier. (Search LL for "dangling", there's plenty of discussion.) Schools may teach that the adjunct has to have the same subject as the main clause, but real life is not so cut-and-dried. If the missing subject is topical enough in the discourse, readers can easily fill it in without even noticing, especially if there's no other noun that can plausibly compete. Here, the subject of "thinking" is "I": the speaker is usually topical, especially when he used "I/me" six times in the preceding paragraphs (though there was a large block of quoted text in between, which makes it harder).

    Exercise: Find another comment to this post that uses a participial phrase with unstated subject "I". If you have to look hard for it, that goes to show how unobtrusive and natural it is.

    It would be educational to see Prof. Mair translate the sentence into Chinese and explain the Chinese syntax!

    As for "for awhile/a while", MWCDEU says both are in wide use and there's no significant difference.

  97. Philip Taylor said,

    June 3, 2020 @ 5:33 am

    For me (native speaker of <Br.E>), "for awhile" is not idiomatic, whilst (e.g.,) "stop awhile", "stay awhile" or "bide awhile" are. I cannot explain this, but I would instinctively wrote "for a while" yet elide the "a w" in the other examples. Indeed, were I to interpolate "for" into any of the other three examples (e.g., "stop for a while") the space would have to go back in.

  98. Andrew Usher said,

    June 3, 2020 @ 7:36 am

    Actually, in 'mobile vulgus', 'mobile' is the adjective applying to 'vulgus'. I don't know which word would be considered the more important, though, certainly any meaning of 'mob' used today is pretty far detached from that origin anyway. At least it does conserve the original pronunciation.

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo.com

  99. John Laviolette said,

    June 3, 2020 @ 11:36 am

    I've heard and used "welp" before, but not frequently. Just enough that I don't find it weird.

    As for "nope", it seems super common, although of course, that may just be my perception. I think, though, that it's taken on a stronger meaning than plain "no" or less-emphatic "nah". It seems to mean "I reject that absolutely, completely, without question". Examples:

    (1) "Hellevator", My Brother, My Brother and Me podcast, episode 356. Griffin McElroy responds to his brother Travis's description of an elevator malfunction with "NOPE". Clip here:


    (2) Multiple episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, dating back to 1988. As a character runs away from an unsettling experience, someone, usually Joel Hodgeson, says "nope nope nope nope" quickly, as if they were the character in the movie.

    (3) Various RiffTrax commentary tracks. In response to a question/statement like "Did you have fun" or "We learned something today", one of the riffers, usually Bill Corbett, responds with "NOPE". This has a slightly more comic feel to it, as if to say "No, and I also think it's hilarious you even asked."

    (4) Internet memes or shared links involving phobia triggers or things the poster finds personally unsettling or "squicky". Memes have just the single word "NOPE", links are preceded with "NOPE" in all capitals. Occasionally, this may be elaborated into phrases like "all kinds of NOPE" or the repeated "NOPE NOPE NOPE".

  100. Philip Taylor said,

    June 3, 2020 @ 3:56 pm

    I think you may well be right, Andrew. For some reason I had always thought of it the other way round, but further research in the light of your comment suggests that my memory was at fault. "[The] fickle plebians" might be one way of translating it.

  101. Andrew Usher said,

    June 4, 2020 @ 7:25 pm

    Yes, I suppose.

    I'm surprised no one mentions 'yelp' – it seems to have the same etymology as 'yell' and a highly related meaning. Could that be the same 'p'?

  102. Andreas Johansson said,

    June 5, 2020 @ 2:13 am

    I was passively aware of "welp", but I hadn't grokked the connection to "well". I had this vague idea it was some sort of onomatopoeia.

  103. Philip Taylor said,

    June 5, 2020 @ 3:45 am

    "Yelp" was mentioned above, Andrew ("If anything, I would expect that 'welp' had an element of surprise, probably because of associations with 'yelp' or 'help'" — David Morris), but I agree that it is worthy of mention, if for no better reason than that it is a part of formal English rather than what I sense is the very informal domain of "yep", "nope", "welp" and their friends. Dogs "yelp" if one accidentally stands on one of their paws, but off-hand I can't think of another family (other than canids, that is) that are routinedly described as "yelping", although the OED records that the wild turkey-hen has been described as so doing.

  104. Jonathan said,

    June 5, 2020 @ 9:58 am

    John Laviolette: Your mention of the uses of 'nope' in MST3K reminded me that 'nope' can also be used as a verb: "When that big hairy monster popped out from behind that tree I noped the hell out of there.".

    It's a bit of a fanciful construction, but I'd guess it sees much more use than "no-ed".

RSS feed for comments on this post