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narrative "eh"



Narrative eh as used by Ben in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman (1949)


Use of the particle eh as a discourse marker (usually at the end of a sentence) to signal a transition, invite agreement, or intensify a question or command.

Narrative eh is most commonly heard in varieties of Canadian English and New Zealand English.

See also:

Examples and Observations

  • "[Jones] also sat down for a series of interrogations, during which he says he gleaned a few clues about who police were looking for: a strong, young, hairless man. Jones, married 43 years, is none of those things.

    "'I'm as hairy as they come, eh,' says Jones, opening his shirt."
    (Jim Rankin, "Colonel's Murder Charges." The Toronto Star, Feb. 28, 2010)

  • "I guess we'd like to go back in time and rectify the things we didn't do right, eh?"
    (Julius Schwartz)

  • "My brother and I used to say that drowning in beer was like heaven, eh?"
    (Rick Moranis as Bob McKenzie in The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew, 1983)

  • "[T]he warm, furry-muklukked, charmingly quizzical eh is so prevalent among Canadians that it has become a humorous cultural identifier to the point of parody. And this is a shame. As Canadian cultural identifiers go, aboot (for about) is much funnier."
    (Mark Dunn, Zounds! A Browser's Dictionary of Interjections. Macmillan, 2005)

  • "Father Sobriente blew his nose violently. . . . 'Good, very good! And now, possibly,' he continued, passing his hand like a damp sponge over his heated brow, 'we shall reverse our exercise. I shall deliver to you in Spanish what you shall render back in English, eh? And--let us consider--we shall make something more familiar and narrative, eh?'"
    (Bret Harte, A Waif of the Plains, 1896)

  • New Zealand eh
    "Within New Zealand eh has specific stereotypical ethnic associations with Maori Vernacular English, known to all native speakers of NZE but largely unknown to non-natives."
    (Allan Bell, "Maori and Pakeha English." New Zealand English, ed. by Allan Bell. Victoria Univ. Press, 2000)

  • Canadian eh
    "Speakers of Canadian English . . . use what has been called 'narrative eh' as a tag in speech:
    Are you listening, eh? Well those shoes I bought, eh, are the most uncomfortable I've ever worn, eh? They hurt everywhere, eh, at my toes, eh, and my heels.
    Among younger Canadians, eh is often replaced by right:
    He came in, right, walked right up to me, right, and stuck out his tongue."
    (Loreto Todd and Ian F. Hancock, International English Usage. Routledge, 1986)

  • "[T]hen there's the Canadian eh. It comes at the end of a sentence, any sentence, in Canadian English. And it does have a meaning. A Canadian from Kitchener, Ontario, explains that 'It changes the sentence from a mere statement, to a question, or sometimes an exclamation where no answer is expected.' More formally, the Canadian Oxford Dictionary says it is used for 'ascertaining the comprehension, continued interest, agreement, etc., of the person or persons addressed.'

    "Not a bad word, eh? Canadians didn't invent the expression or this use of it, but they are known far and wide for its cultivation. The Canadian from Kitchener remarks, 'It is art. It is music. It is poetry. And goes mostly unnoticed between Canadians since it seems a natural part of the language."
    (Allan A. Metcalf, The World in So Many Words. Houghton Mifflin, 1999)

  • "The Canadian 'eh' is the key to understanding Canadian ethics. 'Eh' is the Canadian idiomatic way of designating aporia, the moment of discourse when interlocutors reach a gap, a doubt about what to do or say."
    (Kieran Keohane, Symptoms of Canada: An Essay on the Canadian Identity. Univ. of Toronto Press, 1997)

Also Known As: Canadian eh
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