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Excerpted from Uh-Oh by Robert Fulghum. Copyright 1991 by Robert Fulghum. Excerpted by permission of Villard Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 


"'Uh-oh,' or something like it, has been used as long as people have existed. And it may be the first thing Adam said to Eve after he bit into the apple."

Robert Fulghum, Uh-Oh , Part 1

Uh-oh is not in any dictionary or thesaurus, and is seldom seen in written form. Yet most of us utter that sound every day. And have used it all our lives.

"Uh-oh" is one of the first expressions a baby learns.

"Uh-oh," or something like it, has been used as long as people have existed. And it may be the first thing Adam said to Eve after he bit into the apple.

She knew exactly what he meant, too.

Across the history of the human family, millions and millions of distinct sounds have come and gone as we continually reach for ways to communicate with one another. Often, the most expressive words we use are not words at all, just those shorthand sounds that represent complex thoughts-grunts and moans and snorts and clicks and whistles compounded by facial expressions and physical gestures: "Uh-huh ... no-no ... mmmnnn ... huh ... hey ... oops ... OK. . . yo ... ah ... ha ... humpf. , .- and an almost endless number of others whose meaning and spelling cannot be conveyed with letters on paper.

"Uh-oh" is way up near the top of a list of small syllables with large meanings.

We say "uh-oh" to a small child who falls down or bumps his head or pinches his finger. It means that we know the child hurts, but we also know the hurt is temporary and that the child has the resources to handle the hurt and get up and go on about his business. As the child learns, he will not need to turn to a parent to kiss-it-and-make-it-well each time he scrapes himself-he will know where to find the bandages on his own. "Uh-oh" is the first wedge in weaning, a child away from us into independence.

The older we get, the more experience and knowledge we have, the more able we are to distinguish momentary difficulty from serious trouble. The more we know that something is "uh-oh," not 911.

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