- used when asking someone to repeat what they have said
- an act of surprise (something you say when someone surprises you)
- a modern slang word meaning “excuse me”
- They are going out tonight, even though we told them to stay at home. “Say what!”
- Please hand me that book on the table behind you. “Say what?”
- “Say what” is an informal use of language and should not be used in any sort of formal conversation or by intelligent people.
- Anyone who says “say what” should be ignored until they say “pardon me” which is the polite way of expressing the same sentiment.
- “Congratulations Mrs. Scott, you have won the Gold Medal in English Literature! How does it feel to be a great writer?” “Say what?”
The word say has its origins in Old English, it is of Germanic origin and is related to the Dutch word “zeggen” and the German word “sagen”.
The expression “say what” has only recently gained popularity. According to popular opinion, using the phrase will make you look like an idiot. It is not a formal expression and is generally used by younger, or less educated individuals. It is better to use the expression, pardon me, instead.
Share your thoughts1 Thought
I would say that "making you look like an idiot" is pretty strong. "Less educated" also seems a bit strong. Maybe I´m just being defensive though. I used it all the time and I´m a university educated professional. But I do agree that it is a formal expression.
- Tim April 18, 2023