The Eight Classes of Interjections

On my bookshelf is a fun little book called, Zounds! A Browser’s Dictionary of Interjections. I love this book and have high praise for the patience of its author Mark Dunn. It couldn’t have been easy to compile this dictionary.

My intention was to share some of the interjections and their origins with you, but because interjections are so hard to define I thought a brief overview of where they fit into language should come first. I’ll share some of the actual interjections in later posts.

So, here they are…the eight classes of interjections:

Exclamatory and Other Emotive Responses

According to Dunn, “The words lie somewhere between the voluntary and the involuntary.” Some examples: ow, aha, oh, oops, ouch, oy, wow, yuck.

In context:

Expletives and Their Euphemisms

“[G]rabbing the smuttiest word we can think of to put a fine point (or not so fine point) on our emotional state at a given moment.” Examples (without being extreme): damn, dang, Holy Toledo, jeepers, Jeez Louise, shit, shoot.

In context:

Volitive and Imperative Interjections

Expression of wants and desires or behests and requests. “They pride themselves on their brevity and pithiness.” Examples: ahem, attention, halt, psst, sh, shoo.

In context:

Utilitarian Interjections

In Dunn’s words: “These require specific circumstances for their employment. Very specific. People do not parachute out of planes yelling “Sacajawea.” Examples: banzai, cheers, eureka, fore, Geronimo, gesundheit, peekaboo, present, thanks, timber, upsy daisy.

In context:

Commentarial Interjections

“These words, often steeped with sarcasm and attitude, are among the most enjoyable of the lot, although on occasion you will hear them and just want to slap the impertinent speaker silly.” Examples: as if, boo hoo, whatever.

In context:

Greetings and Farewells

Self-explanatory. Examples: adieu, ahoy, buenas noches, hello, how do you do?, toodle-oo.

In context:

Affirmations and Negations

Again, self-explanatory. Examples: absolutely, not, roger, yessiree.

In context:

Linguistic Mortar

Those fillers for “incomplete, sometimes faltering, un-pre-thought-out sentences” that give the speaker “an extra nanosecond to compose a thought before emission.” Examples: eh, like, okay, ur-uh, well, why.

In context:

I hope this has helped clear up the different ways to use interjections, if not, at least it was entertaining. 😉 Look for future posts in which I share specific interjections and their origins.