"Huh?" is a Universal Word that Binds Confused Humans Together

There are over 7,100 known living languages being spoken in the world, and there's probably one single commonality in all of them: a universal word that binds all humanity and underscores that we are all often in the state of confusion. That word is "Huh?"

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in The Netherlands visited native speakers of 10 very different languages on five continents and recorded over 200 casual conversations that revealed that there are versions of "Huh?" in every language they sampled - and they sound remarkably similar.

"Huh?" has been dismissed by many, calling it as a frivolous "filler word" or a "conversational grunt" like the utterance "mm-hmm", but it may actually play a very important role in conversation - a role so important that a word like it evolved in probably all languages that human speak. Herbert Clark, a psychologist at Stanford University who studies language, told Amina Khan of The Los Angeles Times, that "Huh?" acts as a repair word. "You can't have a conversation without the ability to make repairs. It is a universal need, no matter what kind of conversation you have."

Now, let's see them study the much-maligned word "like" next!


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