but hey

Discussion in 'English Only' started by csicska, Jul 30, 2013.

  1. csicska Senior Member

    hungarian
  2. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    but hey = nevertheless; despite that; but looking on the bright side;
     
  3. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    From the OED on hey (interjection): 1.a. A call to attract attention; also, an exclamation expressing exultation, incitement, surprise, etc.
    Here I feel that hey expresses encouragement rather than incitement exactly.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2013
  4. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    It's amazing how difficult it sometimes is to translate a little two-word phrase, even one that I myself use quite often, but I think the meaning here is something along the lines of "but on the bright side" or "but on the other hand."

    Edit: But hey can be used in more than one way, but I think it's fair to say that it seldom if ever is used to indicate genuine enthusiasm. :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2013
  5. csicska Senior Member

    hungarian
    Thank you PaulQ, se16teddy, JustKate. So it means always "nevertheless / but on the bright side / but on the other hand / despite that" in every context? And intonation will tell us if it expresses exultation, incitement, encouragement?
     
  6. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    No, it is often ambiguous. Words are like that especially perhaps expletives. Think of the rich vein of ambiguity in the words "ah" and "oh" in this poem by Edna Millay:

    My candle burns at both ends;
    It will not last the night;
    But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
    It gives a lovely light.

    http://poem-of-the-week.blogspot.co.uk/2008_01_01_archive.html
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2013
  7. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    I like Teddy's/OED's "A call to attract attention". In my experience, it is usually said cheerfully/pleasantly with the meanings I gave, although what follows might be either genuine or ironic.

    If I recall correctly, there was an American police series on the TV some years back. Each episode started with the sergeant addressing the officers and telling them what they should watch for. For example, he would say: "There have been some burglaries in this area, some robberies in that area and we are looking for an escaped prisoner... and hey, be careful out there!" - Here, the sergeant was expressing kindly concern.
     
  8. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Hey isn't quite the same as but hey. But, after all, can mean "however," and that's what it means here. When but hey is used, it is always or almost always intended to draw attention to some sort of contrast, often a striking or humorous one, or to offer some sort of explanation or justification. I totaled my car, but hey, at least I have a great excuse to skip that long, boring meeting. He's really stupid, but hey, least he's nice to look at. The Cubs won't win the pennant, but hey, at least they have a nice scoreboard.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2013
  9. DW

    DW Senior Member

    Polish
    But(,) hey [it's certaintly a matter of taste, but for me a comma is needed when the expression starts a sentence itself, while is not needed when the expression is insterted in the middle of a sentence] is a thought opener used to attract attention and, usually, contradict what was just said or add an additional, important fact that contrasts with what was just said. From my experience, it's often used with irony, pointing out that saying something after the expression we tell it like it is and call attention to the real crux of the matter.

    Here are a few contexts I came up with that use the expression:


    • A: What are you doing? The intruction boldly reads "add two spoons", not five!
      B: But, hey, it's my pudding!
      ,


    • A: They talk about this in TV all morning, but hey, who cares? I have no idea why this issue has became such a big deal!,


    • A: They say the mess is sorted out and this is settled once and for all, but hey, where are the 2,5 million dollars, hmmm?.

    It's a pretty commonly used expression both in TV journalism and everyday talks, at least in AmE yet I'd clasify this as a rather "spoken" expression. I myself use it all the time. ;)
     
  10. csicska Senior Member

    hungarian
    Thank you again se16teddy, PaulQ, JustKate, so it seems that hey is not the same as but hey. I think I understand it now.

    Thank you The DW-cum-LS-cum-RB.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2013

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