Nobody likes pain. I take that back, I'm sure there are some people who like pain. But, you know what? That's a topic for a different day on a completely different website. In fact, I'm certain there are entire websites devoted to people who enjoy feeling pain. Those websites, I'm sure, are beyond inappropriate for the purposes of today's post.
Anyway, most people dislike pain. (Better?) So we scream or we yell or shout something to make known our plight. You stub your toe, you cry out. You get a paper cut, you make some kind of noise. You fall off the treadmill and hit the floor face first, you're probably gonna cry. And there's a very good chance, at some point during these painful scenarios, you said "ouch!" Yes, with the exclamation point.
These are all appropriate examples of when to use that word. Is it really a word? Or is it more of a sound? In the way I'm using it, ouch is described as an interjection that one uses to express sudden pain or discomfort. Pretty much how I just described it above. But (and I didn't know this until I just looked it up), the dictionary also says that ouch can be a noun. Apparently it's an archaic term for a brooch or buckle of some kind. In can also be a verb, to adorn oneself with ouches. And you didn't think you were gonna learn anything by reading this blog!
Where did "ouch" come from? Where did "ow" come from, for that matter? Is it learned? Infants know how to express that they're uncomfortable. It starts with crying and screaming. But as our words begin to form, we're able to express that discomfort by saying "ow!" Is it an interjection that we learn by watching others around us who just happen to get hurt in our very young presence? Or is it an instinctual sound effect? Animals are able to howl when they're in pain. Howl... Ow... They sure sound a lot alike.
But for all the painful reasons we may have to say "ouch," there are some very good reasons to avoid saying it as well. For example, have you ever dropped something and shouted, "Ouch!"? Pretend for a moment that the thing you dropped didn't land on your toe. Pretend that the thing you dropped made zero contact with your body whatsoever. Did you still say, "Ouch!"?
Confession: I have. And I'm sure I will again at some point. Just last week, I accidentally dropped my notebook in a classroom. This should come as no surprise to most of my college friends. I've been labeled a dropper a number of times. But, you see, it was just a notebook. Can't weigh more than a few ounces. Even if the thing had hit my foot, it wouldn't have hurt in the least. But it didn't touch me. And I still said, "Ow!"
No one was around to witness my phantom pain. I'm a little ashamed to say that it took a few seconds for my brain to register that nothing actually happened and that I had no reason to say "ow" at all. Wait a minute, I'm all right. Then my brain registered relief that no one was around to witness the incident.
Maybe "ouch" isn't used enough. Maybe we should start using it a little more often. Maybe it will be a way to get sympathy from people who don't normally show sympathy. Maybe it will just be a new way to make a nuisance of yourself. If you enjoy annoying people, that may be a new thing for you to try.
So, have you ever said "ouch" when you really didn't need to?