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Oi // is an interjection used in various varieties of the English language, particularly British English, Australian English, New Zealand English, Canadian English, Irish English, Malaysian English, Singaporean English and South African English, as well as Hindi/Urdu, Portuguese and Japanese 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".
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.
In other languages
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. Coincidentally, the term oi (おい) in informal Japanese is used in the same way as British English, typically by older men to subordinates; an elongated ōi is used when someone is at a distance.
Also, in Portuguese, "oi!" [oɪ] means "hi" - mostly in Brazil, as people in Portugual use "olá " instead, still, under the exclusively Brazilian usage, the interrogative "oi?" can be used in the sense of "what did you say?", sometimes showing disapproval or mistrust of something said previously, or "yes?", generally when answering the telephone or intercom (Portuguese people usually say "está?" on the phone).
In Catalan, "oi?" is used at the end of a question, with a meaning similar to "isn't it?"
In accents of rural central Iranian Persian language and Luri language, "oi' (Persian: اوی) has the same usage as in English. In India, "oi" is also used as an exclamation in various contexts. For example it can be used to call someone some distance away, as a way of showing aggression, or when someone is surprised. In Russian, "oy" ("ой") is often used as an expression of various degrees of surprise. In the Scandinavian languages, "Oi!" or the Swedish variant, "Oj!", is commonly used. Here it means "Oh" or "Woops", an exclamation of surprise. There's also a form in Indonesian "oi" means to call someone.
In Vietnamese, oi, spelt in the Vietnamese alphabet as "ơi" is regularly used to call attention to a person in a sentence. It is can used in conjunction with a name or a pronoun. For example, "ơi" is used to get the attention of a waiter in a restaurant, or a teacher in a classroom. It is used in every social setting in Vietnam from family use, to business environments.
In popular culture
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; 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!"
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!".
- Oggy Oggy Oggy
- Oy vey, a similar-sounding Yiddish exclamation for dismay
- Hey (interjection)
|Look up Appendix:Official English Scrabble 2-letter words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Look up Category:English interjections in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
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- G. Bushell, Dance Craze (London, 1981).