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Der ganze Fisch mit Kopf und Augen, das sieht so wähh aus!

The "wähh" word over here is just an expression or has some meaning to it?

Also, is it a positive or negative expression?

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  • 10
    I'm pretty sure this is answered here.
    – RDBury
    Nov 30 '20 at 5:29
  • Are you sure it is not 'bäh' instead of 'wäh'?
    – lalala
    Nov 30 '20 at 19:01
  • "Wähh" ist kein Wort, sondern Lautmalerei.
    – Karl
    Nov 30 '20 at 21:43
  • 1
    Additional information: the sentence appears as part of a longer dialogue in one of the spoken exercises in the German as a Second Langauge textbook "Netzwerk A2.1" published by Klett.
    – Schmuddi
    Dec 1 '20 at 17:04
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"Wäh", or "wähh" or similar is a colloquial term for expressing disgust. The talker means that the fish looks disgusting.

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    Think "eww"... I would probably reevaluate my relationship to whoever uses this for food after the age of 17.
    – HalvarF
    Nov 30 '20 at 8:15
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    The Germany standard German equivalent would be igitt.
    – mach
    Nov 30 '20 at 9:02
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    @HalvarF If they use it as an adjective, I concur. As an interjection, I find it pretty normal. Nov 30 '20 at 14:04
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    The closest thing I could find in Wiktionary or DWDS is Wähe, which, I gather, is a regional name for some kind of pastry. If wäh was worthy of a dictionary entry then I'd happy to go ahead and add it to Wiktionary, but the evidence I've seen is rather skimpy. Wiktionary does have an entry for "ew" and one or two variants, but I think it's more frequently used than wäh.
    – RDBury
    Nov 30 '20 at 15:22
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    Strange, maybe it's something regional, but I would never have used "wäh" to express disgust, I think "bäh" is much more common (see de.wiktionary.org/wiki/b%C3%A4h). For me "wäh" is more the sound of a baby crying...
    – rob74
    Nov 30 '20 at 15:39
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The word wäh (not bäh or uäh, but wäh) is an interjection for expressing disgust. Like all interjections, it is colloquial to a certain degree. Nonetheless, it is a well attested word with a specific form and meaning. It is common in Switzerland. I do not know whether it is also used in other regions – it probably is.

The absence of wäh from common dictionaries or wordbooks suggests that it is not well known in Germany. The absence is rather scandalous since the word is well attested. However, the absence not unusual. Dictionaries and wordbooks tend to have a strong bias towards Germany – like the bias many English dictionaries used to have towards Britain a century ago. The Germany German equivalent would be igitt, which is found in dictionaries, though it also appears to be a regional word – it feels foreign in Switzerland.

The word wäh is even attested in the NZZ, one of the most respected German language newspapers, cf. articles like the following:

You could go on and find it in other Swiss newspapers that have less international prestige, but this already proves that it is a Swiss standard German word.

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  • Thanks for this answer (+1). I had no idea that this is common in Switzerland. It definitely isn't (in that sense) anywhere that I lived (Northern/Western Germany), but it also reminded me of having heard that from someone from Konstanz am Bodensee.
    – HalvarF
    Dec 11 '20 at 19:57
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The forms bäh, uäh are interjections expressing disgust, in this case transcribed as wähh*. Duden has bäh: Ausruf des Ekels.

* One feature that distinguishes interjections from normal words is that the spelling is not necessarily fixed; see for instance pages 16–20 in this ruleset used in the transcription of voice recordings.

One thing stands out in the given example:

Der Fisch sieht so wähh aus!

Interjections are usually used independently. But in this instance, the interjection is used within a sentence like a normal adjective (e.g. eklig): modified by so and functioning as the complement of aussehen. I would associate this usage more with children or teenagers than adults.

As far as the phonetic form is concerned, there seems to be a certain amount of iconicity, although, as in all such cases, it is not quite certain what the precise connection between form and meaning is: The opening of the lips when producing bäh reminds me of spitting, whereas I connect uäh with the sound of vomiting.

Since Duden only has bäh, not uäh, I took a look at the Deutsches Referenzkorpus and found two nice examples:

Ich musste immer die Nieren putzen, waschen, schneiden, uäh. Das kann ich nicht ab. (die tageszeitung, 17.06.2017)

"Das ist voll gruselig", erzählte sie laut, "da stehen Hunderte Mumien herum. Ein paar sind schon richtig vergammelt - uäh! […]" (Berliner Zeitung, 03.06.2009)

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    One cannot expect that these words have a standard spelling recorded in the Duden. "uäh", "wäh" (or "wähh") have a more or less identical sound. Concerning "bäh" : Duden mentions as the 2. meaning "lautmalend für das Blöken des Schafes". This is an obvious correspondence to my interpretation of "wähh" as "lautmalend für das Weinen von Kindern". But it also shows that, depending on the context, there is a difference between "bäh" and "wäh".
    – Paul Frost
    Nov 30 '20 at 23:49
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As PMF explains in his answer, in the context of your question "wähh" expresses disgust. However, it is also used to ape weeping children. A nice example can be found here as the comment of the user fuschi:

Wähh wähh wähh! Uns gehts so schlecht. Wir müssen unfertige Spiele veröffentlichen, um DLC zu verticken. Wir müssen Project 10 $ und DayOneDLC einführen. Wir müssen den Multiplayer besteuern. Wähh wähh wähh! Wir leben an der Existenzgrenze!

Here are more examples found via Google:

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  • I wrote more or less the same in a comment to PMF's answer. But then I noticed the "swiss-standard-german" tag - maybe the Swiss use "wäh" to express disgust?
    – rob74
    Nov 30 '20 at 15:47
  • @rob74 Interesting, I didn't take notice of the tag "swiss-standard-german". Certainly there may be regional differences in the use of "wääh", but I think it is quite common in Germany to express disgust by "wähh" and, as you say, "bähh". Perhaps "wääh" is an onomatopoeic word for the sound of vomiting.
    – Paul Frost
    Nov 30 '20 at 15:59
  • I didn't notice the tag either, but it confuses me a bit. It should probably be "swiss-german" instead (which is something quite different than "swiss-standard-german"). If Swiss use standard german, they usually don't use these kind of coloquial terms (as it is considered a formal language).
    – PMF
    Nov 30 '20 at 16:19

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