Monday, April 10, 2017

“Hungh?”


[Mark Trail, April 10, 2017. Mark Trail writes for Woods and Wildlife. James Allen is having some fun at Mark’s expense.]

This shiny man represents a new direction in evil: bad guys in Mark Trail used to sport facial hair. (For instance.) But what draws me to this panel is the end of the shiny man’s question: “hungh?”

Urban Dictionary has one (2004) entry for hungh, with three definitions. The entry is the work of one Slackerking, and it is his or her only entry. The definitions (see for yourself) suggest comic intent. The word hungh is nearly non-existent elsewhere online. As a Twitter hashtag accompanying photographs of tasty-looking food, hungh is likely meant to signal enthusiastic approval. You know — the sound people might make when they’re stoked. (Huuhh!) As a hashtag accompanying tweets that register puzzlement or surprise, hungh appears to be a misspelling of the word that James Allen, too, is going for: hunh. The Oxford English Dictionary identifies the word as an interjection, “used as an intensifier after a question.”

What I didn’t know: the OED identifies hunh as “U.S. dial. (esp. in Black English).” (Or what most people would now call “African American English.”) The first citation for the word comes from Zora Neale Hurston, Of Mules and Men (1935): “You got mo’ poison in yuh than dat snake dat wuz so poison tell he bit de railroad track and killed de train, hunh?”

I wondered whether the disapproving interjection humph, which I recall from Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), might also might originate in African American English. But no. My son Ben made considerable use of humph in his early years, and long after his childhood, it remains part of the fambly lingo. Humph!

This post is an example what can happen when I read the comics.

Related reading
All OCA Mark Trail posts (Pinboard)

comments: 4

Diane Schirf said...

Maybe this guy's from a place like Brooklyn or where there's a bit more gutturality? (Now I'm hearing an old acquaintance telling me about Long Gisland.)

Michael Leddy said...

I can’t resist saying it: Only his hairdresser knows for sure.

Lawn Guyland (that’s how I’d spell it) is a real place, but I think if this pronunciation were really in use, there’d be some evidence of it. (And I’m from Brooklyn.) Maybe James Allen was misled by the gh of words like cough?

Ben said...

Humph! :)

Michael Leddy said...

That’s my boy!