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Why, hello!

15 replies   
Heard this often in American series or movies, two people meeting each other and one says "Why, hello!".

What does this "why" mean here?
AuthorTLE02 Dec 05, 09:57
It indicates surprise.

You'll often hear: "Why Hello, I didn't expect to see you here"
#1AuthorQ02 Dec 05, 10:05
1 expressing surprise or indignation: Why, that's absurd!
2 used to add emphasis to a response: ‘You think so?’ ‘Why, yes.’
[New Oxford Dictionary or English]

7. (used as an expression of surprise, hesitation, etc., or sometimes a mere expletive): Why, it's all gone!
[Random House Webster's Unabridged]


Obwohl mir "why" als Interjektion nicht unbekannt ist, so beschränken sich meine Begegnungen mit diesem Ausruf doch eher auf die geschriebene Sprache. Ich habe in all der Zeit, die ich in nun Englisch lerne, noch keinen Briten "why, it's all gone" oder ähnliches sagen gehört. Gelesen, hingegen, habe ich es schon oft (ich meine zuletzt in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock-Holmes-Erzählungen), ist es vielleicht einfach nur aus der Mode geraten oder kenne ich die falschen Engländer?
#2AuthorDoris (LEO-Team)02 Dec 05, 10:07
Thank you. Doesn't seem to make sense, but a lot of things don't.
#3AuthorTLE02 Dec 05, 10:07
Thank you. Doesn't seem to make that much sense, but a lot of things don't. What is the "why" aiming at?
#4AuthorTLE02 Dec 05, 10:08
-doesnŽt "well" work in a likely way?

'überrascht: "Well, Hello!"...'
#5Authorcheryl-ann02 Dec 05, 10:20

The only explanation I have is that it is a pattern in the language you hear as a kid. It isn't 'aiming' at anything and it doesn't 'mean' anything.

But it is fairly common.

This isn't a very good answer, I know, but it's the best I have.

Perhaps a linguist will chime in with something better.
#6AuthorQ02 Dec 05, 10:26

yes, it's exactly the same.
#7AuthorQ02 Dec 05, 10:30
@TLE: It's a bit like:
"Ach, hallo! (Lange nicht mehr gesehen!)"

Wie schon beschrieben, drückt es die (angenehme) Überraschung des Sprechers aus bzw. unterstreicht diese.

So auch:
Well, I haven't seen you for ages! Where have you been?

Maybe it's not used quite so much nowadays, but I wouldn't say it's totally uncommon.
#8AuthorFury (BE)02 Dec 05, 11:31
"Leck mich doch am Ärschle, wie geht's dir denn"
würde man wohl im Südwesten sagen
#9AuthorKarle02 Dec 05, 11:46
The term is in quite common use. I think of it as a slightly high-register phrase, perhaps one more used by older people, or people whose general style is to use "polite" wording rather than casual wording.

Look in any dictionary (such as www.m-w.com, "why (interjection)") and you'll find it.
#10Authoreric (new york)02 Dec 05, 12:19
@Fury: The German equivalent is JA

"Ja, hallo! - "Why, hello!"
"Das ist ja absurd!" - "Why, that's absurd!"
"Ja natürlich" - "Why,yes!"
#11AuthorAndi (AT)02 Dec 05, 12:39
Kann mir vielleicht jemand sagen was "That would be telling!" bedeutet?
Vielen Dank
#12AuthorDaniela16 Jan 06, 17:01
Daniela - das würde die Katze aus dem Sack lassen might be a close comparison
#13Authorodondon irl16 Jan 06, 17:03
@Doris: This use of "why" is still very current, at least in the US. I use it frequently myself. In fact, I recently used it on LEO:

  related discussion:Die zeit ist ein Fluss der sich stetig durch die Landschaft der Zukunft windet
#14AuthorGeorgeA (US)16 Jan 06, 19:00
I use "why" quite often, too, but when speaking, and not often in writing.
#15AuthorCarly16 Jan 06, 19:07
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