Internationally, Canadians are mocked for their use of “eh”. It’s recognized as a uniquely Canadian form of speech, often to the point of exaggeration and stereotype. And we’re so aware of this stereotype that we play along and create awesome shows of the likes of “Bob and Doug MacKenzie”, which started as a famous skit on SCTV.
But did you know that not only does it exist in other languages, but it also does not originate in Canada?
“Eh” has its roots in Middle English and has been recorded in writings as far back as Chaucer. That’s the 1300s!
Similar interjections exist in other languages, such as Dutch, Armenian, Hokkien Chinese, Japanese, French, Finnish, Italian, Greek, Hebrew, Malay, Spanish, Persian, Portuguese, Arabic, Turkish, Korean, Catalan, and Filipino.
In Canada, “eh” is an interjection, meaning, "Excuse me?" "Please repeat that", or as many of our American neighbours might know it by, "Huh?”. It is also commonly used as an alternative to the question tag “right?” like asking for confirmation in “It’s hot out, eh?”
To understand all of the nuances of the Canadian “eh”, a student from the University of Toronto, Elaine Gold, compiled a list by conducting a survey in 2004. This is the most extensive list of the different variations.