Is “Sha!” the New “Duh?” I ask because slang erupts from the mouths of the young and lately I have been seeing and hearing this expression — Sha! — appearing in some blogs as well as being heard on the street. Sha! — is not a word, I only learned how to spell it by watching it appear on blogs — and it appears to be an emotional utterance, or more formally: “A Response Cry” as studied by the great sociologist Erving Goffman:

Utterances are housed not in paragraphs, but in turns at talk-occasions implying a temporary taking of the floor, as well as an alternation of takers. Turns themselves are naturally coupled into two-party interchanges. Interchanges are linked in runs marked off by some sort of topicality.One or more of these topical runs make up the body of a conversation. This interactionist view assumes that every utterance is a statement establishing the next speaker’s words as a reply, or a reply to what the prior speaker has just established, or a mixture of both. Utterances, then, do not stand by themselves-indeed, they often make no sense when so heard-but are constructed and timed to support the close social collaboration of speech turn-taking.

In nature the spoken word is only found in verbal interplay, being integrally designed for such collective habitats. However, this paper considers some roguish utterances that appear to violate this interdependence, entering the stream of behavior at peculiar and unnatural places, producing communicative effects but no dialog. The paper begins with a special class of spoken sentences and ends with a special class of vocalizations-the first failing to qualify as communication, the second failing not to.

Here’s what I’ve discovered about Sha!’s common utterances when I hear it used on the street: “Are you dating my Boo?” “Uh, Sha!” The “Sha!-er’s” head is usually cocked to one side when uttering the cry.

I’ve also heard it used this way, too: “I never liked you!” “Sha! huh!” On blogs — usually written by pre-teens and older people who know better — “Sha!” loses some of its urgent street cred when it becomes an internal thought outwardly expressed: “I think I’ll make lasagna tonight for my family, Sha!” “Sha!, I had a chai latte today.”

“I umm, did the car done today, Sha!, and like, lost the tire, in the ditch, on the way into the lake… Sha!” Sometimes it is a paragraph unto itself creating little or no meaning: “Sha!” What is the meaning and the purpose and the etymology of “Sha!” and is it too late to repel its inclusion in the next edition of the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary?

Is there more new slang percolating in the mouths of our youth? If so, what do those words or response cries mean in context?


  1. Thanks for the heads up David – no doubt it will reach this part of the world in about 20 or so years time – we are only just getting the hang of “Duh” and “Doh” ……..
    Now “Urb” I can live with ……….

  2. Hi Nicola!
    “Doh” is actually spelled “D-oh!” — and I know because that’s how it’s written in the Simpson’s scripts! Ha! Now that is a prime example of entertainment subverting common international culture!
    Is there any UK slang we should be watching out for as it swims across oceans and clambers over terrain to reach unsuspecting ears?
    “Urb” I can live with as well, but should “Urb” be the new Sha!, the old “Duh?” or something else?

  3. I am yet to come across this particular usage – may be I am too old to hang out with this group…
    Still stuck with “holy cow….duh!”
    “Urb” is fabulous idea as a replacement!

  4. Let’s Urb, Katha!
    We can make Urb a soft drink, a slow dance and a greeting!
    Urb will be our new noun, interjection, verb, prepositional phrase and our ultimate addendum.
    Why — what the Urb — we can make it into our own language like Pig Latin!
    Can you translate the following Urb phrase into Proper English?
    “I amurb gourbing tourb thurbe fourbotball gaurbme; jourbin meurb, wourbn’t yourbu?”

  5. Hi Nicola!
    Urb is MORE than the simple Sha!, for in “Urb-Speak” the Sha! becomes: Shurba!
    Oh, wow! The definition of “cherry” in the UK is interesting compared to its common American slang usage as defined by Oxford:

    vulgar slang the hymen, as representing a woman’s virginity.
    pop someone’s cherry — vulgar slang have sexual intercourse with a girl or woman who is a virgin.

  6. I knew I had heard this before and it suddenly hit me where :
    Wayne’s World.
    Not just the films but the SNL sketches they were based on. Check out the transcript from this 1990 episode here
    Here’s the bit of dialogue where it comes in:
    Garth: A Bat-Man poster with Kim Basinger – what a ba-a-a-abe!
    Wayne: Shyeah! No guff! [ growls ]
    “Sha” is clearly etymologically derived from “Shyeah” which itself is a contraction of “Pshhh… yeah, right”. “Psshhh” being an onomotopaeic scoffing sound outside of orthodox jewish circles, where it is a sound of respect most frequently heard when yet another 20 year old lad has his engagement announced. (I’m not at all bitter.)

  7. We have that meaning as well ……….
    More common use is for the fruit – or cherry ripe … hence their use of everythings cool, everything is good – everything is peachy – and just *ripe* for picking ! “Cherry Mate” accompanied by a high five!
    “Urb speak” reminds me of a game I used to play with my grandmother …….. sing song code.
    Add the letter T or sound “T” after each letter in a word …… and add *mug* on the end to confuse. So nit (her favorite slang word) became N-T-I-T-T-T mug. (that was a flash from the past! )

  8. It’s so interesting, Nicola, how a word like “cherry” can have such a wide variety of meaning beyond the base word. Context and even vocal intonation can provide meaning and even unintentional meaning!
    Love the singsong code! What is the real slang meaning of “nit” and why was it your grandmother’s favorite?

  9. I think in general the trend in the last 20 years has been to shorten expressions as much as possible.
    This is the logic that took “What’s up” and turned it into “Whattup” and “Whassup” depending on if you are of Ashkenazic or Sephardic lineage. I’m kidding, of course. Those are two varations I have heard. At one point people even said “Wha-up”.
    Contractions are pretty common in orthodox jewish circles. For example, Rashi is a contraction of Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki. People regularly use the expression “Shkoach!” which is a contraction of “Yasher Koach” which means literally “be strengthened” but is a congratulatory term.

  10. Nit was short for nitwit. – A stupid or silly person.
    [Probably obsolete nit, nothing – from German dialectal, from Middle High German niht, nit;]
    My grandmother bless her was a very genteel lady and this was about as close as she came to calling people idiots !

  11. Nicola!
    A while back you provided a URL to an article that discussed doing tests on children to determine if they would become criminals or not later. I can’t find that comment. Can you please re-direct me to that URL?

  12. Hi David,
    I saw Katha’s comment and it makes me wonder if sha is something that hasn’t made it to the midwest yet. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone use it around me yet.
    I checked Urban Dictionary and they have 10 different definitions as well, so it might mean different things to different places.

  13. UPDATE:
    I uploaded an URB “favorite icon” image for this site that should load next to the URL in your web browser’s address bar that replaces the tiny “Mr. Green” if it’s working right.
    Let me know if you can see it. You may need to do some cache flushing and stuff to force it to load.
    I’m surprised you can actually read “URB” in that small 16.16 pixel size!

  14. It looks like Sha has been around since 2005, so someone should have said it at least once or twice around me. I’ve heard a lot of yessir over the years.
    I’ll ask around.
    Of course, I haven’t heard too many people say duh for a while either, so I might be missing the situations where it would come up in context.
    I think things start on the coasts or in the south, then work toward the center of the country.
    You’ll know when the word is going out of favor when you start hearing it on TV.

  15. Dearest, beloved, prying1:
    Umm, it’s “Caurblifornia” not “Califurbia.”
    We are paying you back by loading “The URB” next to every comment you post from now on!

  16. Hi David,
    Here’s what my friend from Newark had to write:

    No I haven’t. …
    What does this mean and why is it going around? …
    Is it a gang thing or a word gangs use?

    Of course, she’s older than the demographic that would be using the word, but she does have a daughter who’s in her 20s or so.
    I let her know not to worry about it if she hears it.

  17. prying1 —
    It’s “suurbstantial” not “surbstantial” — WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO WITH YOU?!!
    We will consider your profit making scheme — meanwhile… just keep commenting so our URB keeps loading!

  18. Hi David,
    When I get more polling data back from more people, I’ll let you know what I find out.
    The first response was from a 45-year-old woman.
    It should be interesting to find out.

  19. Dear, beloved, misbegotten, pryying1 —
    Thanks for loading the logo again — err, I mean the “urb” — I mean… thanks for the comment!
    No, your friend Herb is “Heurbrb.” Don’t worry. We’ll have lessons on this tomorrow.

  20. “Olny srmat poelpe can raed tihs.
    cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy –
    it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm.
    Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!”
    Huh! What the heck!
    Why on earth did I struggle so much to learn the correct spelling of a language throughout my childhood when I could have spent the time “more constructively” i.e – running after birds, butterflies and grasshoppers?

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