"Whoa" expressing surprise: used in Great Britain?

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ganacka

Senior Member
USA - American English
Is "Whoa", the interjection, used in Great Britain as it is in the United States?
 
  • teslmaster

    New Member
    English-Canada
    Can you give us an example of how it's used in the US - perhaps a sample conversation?
    In North America, using "whoa" this way signifies that one is overwhelmed or taken aback by what he/she is hearing and needs a moment to regroup their faculties in order mentally to process what is being communicated.

    Example:

    Person A: I just heard that Jimmy walked in on his wife and his brother having sex and it turns out that this has been going on for 5 years right under his nose. Turns out Jimmy may not even be the father of his own children...they might actually be his brother's.

    Person B: Whoa! I just say Jimmy yesterday and he was talking about how great everything was going between him and his wife! I guess you never can tell.

    Hope this helps!
     

    ganacka

    Senior Member
    USA - American English
    I think teslmaster's example is good, but "whoa" could also be used in less extreme situations. One might say, upon tasting food, "Whoa! I didn't realize this had so much garlic in it."
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Father expressing both surprise and "hold up there a minute" to teen-aged daughter: Whoa ... where do you think you're going dressed like that?

    Male to female friend: Whoa... you are looking good today! (Whoa in the sense of, Wow, I've got to stop and take this in.)
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Can you give us an example of how it's used in the US - perhaps a sample conversation?
    Isn't this the expression popularized by the Bill and Ted movies? I'm hearing a "dude"...

    [both get served beers in a saloon bar] Whoa. He didn't even card us, dude.
    Whoa! Ted! You're alive!
    Whoa, three aces!
    Whoa, who's the señorita? She's cute.

    I think this is quite specifically US. If it's heard in Britain, I expect it is through imitation.
     
    As I think about this current use of "whoa", often drawled out into a deliberate stutter, "wo-o-o!" (in the same way as dude becomes "du-uuuu-uuud!), I hear it as both a command to stop, then an expression of surprise blended into both at the same time, and it could have somehow derived from the command to stop a horse, only the horse is the speaker relating something improbable/incredible to the listener, and the listener is saying, "Stop, hold on there, speaker horse, let me try to absorb this thing I've just heard before we go any further."

    So wow to me is: "Incredible!" or these days with some, "Awesome!" whereas "Whoa!" is more like, "Stop, you don't mean it, I accept it but can't believe it...WHAT???" probably best used in a bar or pub.

    Someone from my generation wouldn't be too apt to use it, and I only started hearing it from young people and in films around the year 2000.
     

    Twoflower

    Member
    UK, English
    I would say that "whoa" is used in the UK, both as a self-conscious Americanism as Matching Mole suggests, and in contexts such as Copyright suggests, where the "Halt!" meaning is obviously retained, even if the halting itself is figurative.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I think its meaning is governed by the tone of voice.

    The word "Oh" can be substituted if you use the right tone of voice for a whole panoply of words.

    "Whoa" could, with the right tone of voice mean:

    • What does that mean?
    • Stop!
    • She's hot!
    • Nice car!
    • etc.
    "Whoa" is a simple interjection; it is the tone of voice that controls the meaning. In writing it is more difficult, but can be expressed with an added phrase.

    "Whoa!" he said in admiration of the bright red Ferrari 599 GT.
     

    sibu

    Senior Member
    I think its meaning is governed by the tone of voice.

    The word "Oh" can be substituted if you use the right tone of voice for a whole panoply of words.

    "Whoa" could, with the right tone of voice mean:

    • What does that mean?
    • Stop!
    • She's hot!
    • Nice car!
    • etc.
    "Whoa" is a simple interjection; it is the tone of voice that controls the meaning. In writing it is more difficult, but can be expressed with an added phrase.

    "Whoa!" he said in admiration of the bright red Ferrari 599 GT.
    Could we sum up the difference between "Wow!" and "Whoa!" as the first only expressing positive surprise and the second expressing either positive or negative amazement?
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I think “wow” means “that’s amazing” while “whoa” means “Stop! Take a look! That’s amazing!”
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    The OED does not list this use as being specifically AmE.

    Used as a general interjection to command attention or express that one is surprised, impressed, interested, etc. Cf. whoa ho int. 3.

    Here are the last two quotations. The first is from Iain Banks who is Scottish. The second is from Stephanie Tromly who is a Filipino-Chinese who grew up in Hong Kong and lives in Canada.

    1992 I. Banks Crow Road (1993) vi. 140 He made a show of squeezing Rory's boney shoulder. ‘Woa; feels like you could do with a bit of feeding up yourself.’
    2015 S. Tromly Trouble is Friend of Mine viii. 59 ‘She disappeared a month ago.’ ‘Whoa, you think it was Schell?’
     

    arctophile

    New Member
    U.S. English
    I could be wrong, but I think I remember Harry Potter saying, "Whoa" when he saw Diagon Alley for the first time in in Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone. Is this a case of an Americanism or is it something a British kid would actually say?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    No, he doesn't say anything: but a boy looking into a shop window says "Wow! Look at it - the new Nimbus 2000!"

    :)
     
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