/ˌuˈ(w)i/, used as an exclamation. OED3 (Sept. 2013):

N.Amer. colloq. Expressing astonishment, admiration, dismay, etc. [first cite 1910]

(No one seems to have looked at actual usage in any detail — a tough task for colloquial expressions in general, but especially tough for exclamations.)

Why do I mention it? Because of my posting “sg /u/, pl /i/” a couple days ago — with sg / pl pairs involving these vowels, but also nonoccurring pairs like noose / neese. And then, in the April 2016 Funny Times, this Mark Stivers cartoon starting with the sg / pl pairs tooth / teeth and foot / feet, and then immediately branching off into silly play with pairs like toon / teen:


1. tooth / teeth and foot / feet are not both instances of /u/ vs. /i/ in modern English, despite the spellings in OO for the sgs. The first is, but the second has sg /fUt/ (with a lax vowel), not /fut/.

2. Though the predominant pronunciation for roof has tense /u/, a pronunciation with lax /U/ is also standard.

3. The word poor has two alternative pronunciations, only one with /u/ to go along with the /i/ of peer; the other has /o/.


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