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Oi // is an interjection used in various varieties of the English language, including British English, Australian English, New Zealand English, and Southern African English, to get the attention of another person or to express surprise or disapproval.
"Oi" has been particularly associated with working class and Cockney speech. It is effectively a local pronunciation of "hoy" (see H-dropping), an older expression. 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".
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". In Latin, the similar "oiei" was a cry of pain. The term is used in informal Japanese in the same way as in British English, typically by older men to subordinates; an elongated ōi is used when someone is at a distance.
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; 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!"
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." "Oi" was added to the list of acceptable words in US Scrabble in 2006.
The phrase gained a certain notoriety due to a British working-class punk rock subgenre being named Oi!. Originating in the late 1970s, the genre and its associated subculture had the goal of bringing together punks, skinheads and other working-class youths. 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!".
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- "Oi". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
- "Hoy". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
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