The signs of speechlessness

What do you say to convey that you can’t find any words to describe your state of mind? What’s the verbal equivalent of the speechlessness emoji 😶 ? (Which literally has no mouth, indicating an inability to speak.)

Some people have conventional expressions for this purpose. Here’s one of them, homina, in today’s Mother Goose and Grimm:


As a cartoon bonus, we get the (metonymic) conversion of an expression evincing some state of mind — homina evincing bewilderment, surprise, or shock to the point of speechlessness —  to a measure noun denoting a degree of the evinced state of mind — homina as a unit of bewilderment etc. A special sort of nouning, generally available for interjections:

I give that experience three eeks / ughs / ewws / ouches / …

Meanwhile, the interjection can also be used to index occasions of speechless bewilderment, etc., as in this Times of London headline on a 9/27/18 story:

Theresa May’s ‘homina homina’ moment with [REDACTED]

(Helmet Grabpussy bullied the Prime Minister, to the point where she could barely speak.)

The interjection hasn’t made it into GDoS, and the OED not only has no entry,; it has no occurrence in any of the material in the current edition. So, from crowdsourced sites — first, Wiktionary, with an actual attestation:

Interjection homina homina homina: (humorous) Filler text indicating that the speaker is speechless. quotation: 1993, Sonic the Hedgehog (4-issue miniseries) #3, Archie Comics:

Robotnik: If you are a true robot, you will obey! Now tell me the location of Knotville Village at once!

Buzz Bomber: He’s stalling, master!

Sonic the Hedgehog: [pretending to be a robot] Homina-homina-homina…

Then from Urban Dictionary, with an undoubtedly accurate reference to its source in popular culture, but what looks like an overspecific account of its use:

homina: A word, normally repeated three times, to express shock, befuddlement, or general speechlessness. Often when looking at a particularly attractive member of the speaker’s favored sex. It probably comes from Ralph Kramden on “The Honeymooners.” [example:] Attractive Female: Hello. / Me: Homina homina homina. (by Mycroft 11/16/06)

The special case of speechlessness occasioned by somene’s sexual attractions — akin to the somewhat dated (and more contentful) hubba hubba! — probably reflects the commenter Mycroft’s personal experience with the interjection. (UD entries often reflect details of the occasions on which commenters recalled having first noted particular expressions.)

You can watch in this video (#2) one memorable occurrence of homina homina homina by Jackie Gleason in his role as Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners, in the 1/28/56 show (S1 E18 “The $99,000 Answer”). It’s not clear where Gleason and his writers got the interjection; quite likely, it was someone’s sheer invention. But with the show, it took off and spread, and is now undoubtedly used by plenty of people who have no idea of its origins; it’s just what you say.


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