Office Downtime- Ooo vs. Ooh vs. Ohh vs. Ew?

I’m going to start a post series called “Office Downtime”. As I’ve noticed working here the past couple weeks, work isn’t the only thing that happens in the office. Similar to school, a lot of other things happen during the downtime. These can be jokes, interesting personal developments, neat discussions, or arguments. I think that these extra things are important to accurately describing office life and I’m going to start posting about my favorite ones. So, here is my first installation in Office Downtime.


A week or so ago my father and I were throwing around ideas for the mobile game in Campfire, the shared chat room VenForma uses to communicate with all the employees. I had suggested an idea and in response, my father replied “ewww, yeah!” As you might imagine, I was very confused and a little hurt at his response. Was my suggestion that bad? It turns out my father was trying to react positively but did not know how to properly express the sound in writing. This post shows what happened next.

Question: What sounds and expressions do Ooo, Ooh, and Ohh represent?

My dad wanted to give the sound that the aliens in Toy Story make upon meeting Buzz, the sound in “food”. He didn’t know how to express it and instead used “ewww” (a poor substitute, in my opinion). Here’s the actual conversation(click to get a better view):

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Another employee, Heather, and I both believed that the correct spelling for that would be “ooo”, all o’s. At the time, I believed that claim was substantiated, although we hadn’t put actual research into it. This was just what we believed personally. Now we will delve into the research concerning the matter since then.

There’s no definitive place where you can look up “ooo” and “ooh” and the like and find correct pronunciations. They’re not words, really. To find the correct spelling of the different sounds, we’re going with majority rules. Whichever is most commonly used on the Internet will be how we judge.

With further research, there’s little evidence to claim “ooo” is the right word in this situation. In YouTube, if you start typing “toy story aliens –”, the first result that comes up is “toy story aliens ooo“. Also, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles had a popular song where part of the chorus made the same sound, and it was named “Ooo Baby Baby”. Yet there’s also evidence to the contrary.

There seems to be more use of the word “Ooh” to represent this sound, more o’s than h’s. Perfect example: Terio and the “Ooh, kill em!” vines. If you haven’t seen the original Terio vines, look here at this compilation. The phrase “ooh, kill em!” became popular Fall 2013 both on the social media network Vine and in spoken language (at least in the company I was surrounded by). And most text incarnations of this phrase, YouTube, Vine, Google Images, use two o’s and an h.

Another classic example is the phrase “the oohs and aahs.” Often used in cartoons when a crowd sees something impressive, the “ooh” is exactly the sound we’re looking for. And Google searches have shown that this phrase is definitely spelled with an h, not accepting all o’s.

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Not much in use anymore, the phrase “ooh la la” , from the original French phrase “oh là là!”, is spelled from many sources online with an h, including the Urban Dictionary. To be fair, “ooo la la” is also an entry in there but only has 5 votes compared to its opponent’s 203.

Also,  the dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster online, and the Free Dictionary all have “ooh” defined as an interjection used to express pleasure or amazement.

It seems that while all o’s “ooo” can work in some cases for the spelling of this interjection, o’s and an h “ooh” is the more common and justified spelling to use in this case. We can pretty eliminate “ooo” from our discussion; it’s a sub-par spelling of “ooh”.

So how does “ooh” compare to “ohh”, more h’s than o’s? The “ohh” sound we’re looking for this time is the expression you’d make after an epiphany, like “ohh, now I get it!” Basically it’s just the drawn out version of “Oh”, like it looks. However, it’s hard to find the presence of “ohh” on the the Internet. It seems most people prefer just the one h, “oh.”

There’s really only one entry on the urban dictionary using “ohh”, and that’s with the phrase “ohh sh*t!” The only other example I can find is a YouTube montage of the all the “ohhhhhs!” in the kids’ cartoon Regular Show, a recurring phrase the main characters exclaim whenever they believe they’ve burned someone (don’t look it up-it’s like nails on a chalkboard).

It seems “ooh” is used more often that the sound “ohh”. Google tried to change my search to “ooh” when I typed in “define ohh’. In some cases I’ve seen “ooh” in the place of “ooh”. However, these occur far less fewer than the use of “ooh”. So while we can’t really definitively claim “ohh” is the proper spelling of the epiphany interjection, we can say the “ooh” is a more correct spelling of the feeling of being impressed or satisfaction than “ohh”.

Ew, meanwhile, is definitely used an an exclamation of disgust, not an exclamation of satisfaction. My dad isn’t the only one to use it in place of “ooh”, however; I performed searches of the “ooh kill em” phrase replaced with “ew”, and it automatically finished my search. That’s the only phrase it works with however.

Conclusion: The expression “ooh”, with more o’s than h’s, is an expression of satisfaction or being impressed and sounds like “food”. All o’s, “ooo”, is not commonly used and is probably slightly inaccurate but can be used to express the same feeling. The expression “ohh”, more h’s than o’s, can be used to express an epiphany, but it’s probably safer to just use “Oh”, one o and one h. The expression “ew” is most commonly used as an exclamation of disgust. It is misleading to use it in the place of “ooh”.

So from now on, there will be no misleading “ews” thrown around our office.

How do you use these spellings? Do you think our office got it right? Leave a comment with your opinion below!

Aurora Kesler

Intern working at VenForma. Starting a blog documenting my first summer as an intern and working on creating a mobile game.

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