Some readers may well feel themselves in the dark when it comes to the usage of the interjection ‘oh’ in English and its translation in Catalan. Thus they could find a 2007 article published in the Catalan Journal of Linguistics, (Vol. 6, pp 117-136) of help.

The translation of oh in a corpus of dubbed sitcoms‘ is authored by  Dr. Anna Matamala, who is a Professora titular d’universitat, at the Departament de Traducció i d’Interpretació of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain.

The Professora undertook the study to examine the functions of the interjection ‘oh‘ in an audiovisual corpus of English sitcoms which she had prepared in 2005, looking at (or rather listening to) the subsequent translation (or omission) of ‘oh‘ in the resulting Catalan dubbed versions. The analysis showed that :

“In 56.1% of instances the English oh is omitted in the Catalan version: these correspond to interjections expressing pleasure (2 instances), realisation of something plus no specific value (4 instances), realisation + complaint/moan (2 instances), realisation + surprise (5 instances), realisation + admiration (1 instance), realisation + annoyance (1 instance), agreement (5 instances) and a conative value (3 instances).”

The author also notes a great many of ‘oh’’s possible functions – for example it can flag : Pain, disappointment, surprise, pity, admiration, annoyance, phatic*-agreement, or phatic*-disagreement, to name but a few.

* Note for non-linguists : A phatic expression is one whose only function is to perform a social task, as opposed to conveying information. e.g. “Yo, wassup dude.” (US)  or “Gawd luvva duck.”(UK).