Oi (interjection)

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Oi /ɔɪ/ is an interjection used in various varieties of the English language, particularly British English, Australian English, New Zealand English, and Southern African English, to get the attention of another person or to express surprise or disapproval.[1][2][3]

"Oi" has been particularly associated with working class and Cockney speech.[4] It is effectively a local pronunciation of "hoy"[5] (see H-dropping), an older expression.[6] A study of the Cockney dialect in the 1950s found that whether it was being used to call attention or as a challenge depended on its tone and abruptness. The study's author noted that the expression is "jaunty and self-assertive" as well as "intensely cockney".[7]

A poll of non-English speakers by the British Council in 2004 found that "oi" was considered the 61st most beautiful word in the English language. A spokesman commented that "Oi is not a word that I would've thought turned up in English manuals all that often."[8] "Oi" was added to the list of acceptable words in US Scrabble in 2006.[9]

In other languages[edit]

According to Friedrich Nietzsche, in Greek, "oi" was an expression of pain, and someone who was in pain or miserable was said to be "oizuros".[10] In Latin, the similar "oiei" was a cry of pain.[11] Coincidentally, the term oi (おい) in informal Japanese is used in the same way as British English, typically by older men to subordinates;[12] an elongated ōi is used when someone is at a distance.[13] Also, in Portuguese, "oi!" [oɪ] means "hi", while the interrogative "oi?" is used in the sense of "what did you say?". It is used to attract attention in Spanish, with a variation in letters (oye). In accents of rural central Iranian Persian language and Luri language, "oi' (Persian: اوی‎) has the same usage as in English. In Russian, "oi" ("ой") is often used as an expression of various degrees of surprise.

In popular culture[edit]

Any time you're Lambeth way,
Any evening, any day,
You'll find us all
Doin' the Lambeth Walk. Oi!

—The opening lyrics of The Lambeth Walk

The 1937 musical song The Lambeth Walk from Me and My Girl ends with a cry of "Oi!", expressing defiance and transgression of the working class characters;[14] it was newsworthy when King George VI of the United Kingdom and Queen Elizabeth were at one performance and "with the rest of the audience, cocked their thumbs and shouted Oi!"[15]

The phrase gained a certain notoriety due to a British working-class punk rock subgenre being named Oi!.[16][17] Originating in the late 1970s, the genre and its associated subculture had the goal of bringing together punks, skinheads and other working-class youths.[18][19] The term was later used in the Blur song "Parklife", exemplifying its appeal to a new generation of mockneys. The term also evolved to be used in Multicultural London English; a 2002 UK Top 10 hit by the grime music group More Fire Crew was titled "Oi!".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Oi". Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  2. ^ "Oi". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  3. ^ "Oi". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  4. ^ Sutton, Terri (January 1996). "Blur". Spin 11 (10): 36. 
  5. ^ "Oi". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  6. ^ "Hoy". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  7. ^ Franklyn, Julian (1953). The Cockney: A Survey of London Life and Language. A. Deutsch. p. 259. 
  8. ^ "Mum's the word, says the world". BBC News. 27 November 2004. 
  9. ^ Linn, Virginia (9 April 2006). "Scrabble players adjust as official dictionary adds 'za', 'qi' and 3,300 others". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  10. ^ Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm (2006). "Later writings (1886-7)". In Ansell-Pearson, Keith; Large, Duncan. The Nietzsche Reader, Volume 10. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 400. ISBN 0-631-22654-0. 
  11. ^ Lindsay, W. M. (2010). The Latin Language: An Historical Account of Latin Sounds, Stems, and Flexions. Cambridge University Press. p. 39. ISBN 1-108-01240-X. 
  12. ^ Hinds, John (Routledge). Japanese: Descriptive Grammar. 1990. p. 207. ISBN 0-415-01033-0.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. ^ Lammers, Wayne P. (2005). Japanese the Manga Way: An Illustrated Guide to Grammar & Structure. Stone Bridge Press, Inc. p. 249. ISBN 1-880656-90-6. 
  14. ^ Samuel, Raphael; Light, Alison (1994). "Doing the Lambeth Walk". Theatres of Memory, Volume 1. Verso. p. 394. ISBN 9780860912095. 
  15. ^ Guy, Stephens (2001). Richards, Jeffrey, ed. The Unknown 1930s: An Alternative History of the British Cinema 1929-39. I.B.Tauris. p. 112. ISBN 1-86064-628-X. 
  16. ^ Dalton, Stephen, "Revolution Rock", Vox, June 1993
  17. ^ Robb, John (2006). Punk Rock: An Oral History (London: Elbury Press). ISBN 0-09-190511-7.
  18. ^ G. Bushell, ‘Oi! – The Debate’, Sounds, 24 January 1981, 30–1.
  19. ^ G. Bushell, Dance Craze (London, 1981).