Ou l’on constate que l’anglais possède le mot hein.
In my pursuit of acquiring at least some of the trappings of British geek and pop culture, getting a basic grasp on Doctor Who I came across a word that I hadn’t been aware the English language possessed.
This is from last Staturday’s episode (”Utopia”), about 7 or 8 minutes in. The protagonists have just arrived in an unknown location and are walking through a dark rocky landscape. While the Doctor is rather pensive and monosyllabic, his companions, Captain Jack Harkness and Martha Jones, are chattering away. There is an undercurrent of jealousy, and at one point Martha gets a bit snippy. Here’s how the Doctor calls them to order:
To me, the interjection after “end of the universe” sounds pretty much like the French word hein. Moreover, it has here exactly the meaning of hein: something like a rather aggressive question tag, which could be glossed as “right?” or “isn’t it?”
But here’s the problem. If I transcribe this passage as:
- You two — we’re at the end of the universe, hein? Right at the edge of knowledge itself, and you’re busy … blogging! Come on.
… then it looks to the reader as if the speaker was speaking with a French accent, which would be misleading.
I asked some irquaintances for other, more English-looking spellings. The suggestion that might fit best was hunh.
(That this was one of the funniest TV quotes I’ve encountered in a while may have contributed to my noticing this.)