Tag Archives: exclamations

Uff da

Context: EC is a white graduate student at USC studying linguistics. Up until attending USC, she lived in Pasadena, California. That being said, her dad is from Iowa, and her mom is from Indiana. I asked EC if there were any sayings that she learned as a kid from her family or community, and she responded with this folk saying. The word is used in casual conversation as an exclamation.

Text: One is from my dad’s side, which I always thought of is one word but apparently it’s two words, and it’s called uuf da. It comes from I think Norway or Scandinavia because my dad’s grandfather was from Sweden. It’s funny because my mom says phew, so when I was little I combined then, so now I say phewfda. Uff da, it’s kind of like… if you go to Minnesota, there will be merchandise with uff da on it because there are so many Scandinavian people in Minnesota. Basically uff da, you just kind of say it when something not big has happened. But it’s like “oh man uff da, that was really hard.” It doesn’t have a negative context, but you wouldn’t say “uff da that was so exciting!” It’s always like “ugh, uff da, that was a difficult test,” or “uff da, that was a workout.” It’s never for anything super bad, or at least how my family uses it, and honestly I’m not really sure what it translates to, but I think it’s one of those things like “ugh.”

“Uff da”

Thoughts/Analysis: From what I can gather, there’s no direct translation for uff da: it’s onomatopoeia like “oof” in English. It’s really an exclamation to express and release tension. Being onomatopoeia, different languages have different spellings for similar noises. I’ve used oof before, but it seems as though uff da is very specific to Scandinavians and those from that ancestry. EC’s combination of phew and uff da is especially interesting, exemplifying how the blending of cultures can impact the folklore that people spread. She’s the first to use it in her family, but as she ages and has children, her new version may spread as a fusion: an example of polygenesis in real time.

Salud, Dinero, Amor!

Folklore Piece

“So I went to a Spanish immersion elementary school; everything was taught to us in Spanish except for English. Um, and so, when anyone would sneeze, as kids usually do, there’s this  Spanish saying that correlates sneezing with health. I guess, you could say. So if you sneeze once, you say ‘Salud’, if you sneeze twice you say ‘Dinero’, if you sneeze three times, ‘Amor’. So you’re wishing someone health, money, and love after each time that they sneeze.”


Background information

“I don’t know why I did it. I guess I was sort of caught up in it. I mean, if you’re a little kid and someone’s screaming at you in Spanish, but it’s a happy scream, you’re like ‘Yeah! I’m a happy screamer too!’ But like everyone’s just happy yelling at each other. Which I think is a lot of the Spanish language. I learned that when I was really young, I mean I started Spanish when I was in kindergarten.”



“I don’t really say it anymore, but yeah, in general, people say it any time you sneeze, like saying ‘bless you’. But I guess it doesn’t really change in English. But I think it’s the same idea.”



I learned about this in my Spanish class in high school as well. Much like the term ‘Bless you!’ many of the native Spanish speakers I know weren’t sure why they say it. Generally, it’s to wish someone good luck: health, money, and love.

My family does something similar where we change our “bless you’s” each time. The first one, it’s just a mild “Bless you.” The second, a bit louder, “Bless you!”, and the third “Take a sick day!” Each and every time.

These sneezing rituals are not uncommon; as we talked about in class it used to be believed that when someone sneezed, a bit of their soul left their body, hence the phrase “Bless you!” This general sentiment of wishing someone good fortune when something bad has happened to them could be the reason for the extension to this Spanish saying that the informant is talking about.

Interesting, too, is the informants reaction to being asked about its origins. She had no idea, didn’t claim to have any idea, and removed herself from the culture entirely. Even though she attended a Spanish immersion school, spoke in Spanish for a large portion of her life, and learned and celebrated an immense amount of Spanish culture, she still speaks of it as if it were entirely removed from herself.

This deals a lot with our class discussions about cultural identity and heritage. I think the informant might feel that, because her heritage isn’t of Spanish origin, she doesn’t claim ownership over the Spanish culture. There’s no right or wrong answer to this dilemma, only that the informant acts in the way that she feels most comfortable, which evidently is not identifying herself with the language or culture.