Media coverage

[altmetric doi=”10.1371/journal.pone.0078273″ popover=”left” float=”right”]
Our work on conversation across cultures —particularly our discovery that ‘huh?’ may be a universal word— has drawn worldwide attention. “Huh?” has been heralded as ‘the syllable that everyone recognises’ (New York Times) and ‘the most important word in the world’ (Süddeutsche Zeitung). This page lists a small selection of the international media coverage. Elsewhere we list key findings and answer frequently asked questions.

The paper itself was published on Friday November 8. Within one week it amassed over 100,000 views, immediately landing it in the Top 5 most viewed PLOS ONE  papers of 2013. Within two weeks it rocketed into the Top 20 most viewed papers of PLOS ONE of all time and it has consistently stayed there. Five years after its publication, it has well over 250,000 views. Altmetric notes that in terms of media attention, the paper scored “higher than 99% of its peers” and is in the top 1000 of over 8 million scientific articles tracked.

According to, a service tracking citations and scholarly influence, “this publication is extremely highly cited and has received approximately 102 times more citations than average.” Google Scholar records >150 citations, which is relatively high for the field of linguistics, where overall citation rates are low.

International press

The total number of international news sources that have covered the study online and offline is in the hundreds. A small selection:

New York Times — That Syllable Everyone Recognizes (Jenny Schuessler)

LA Times — Huh? Scientists find a version in each of 10 languages studied (Amina Khan)

Süddeutsche Zeitung — Das wichtigste Wort der Welt [The most important word in the world] (Katrin Blawat)

Die Welt — Stammeln ist menschlich (Matthias Heine)

NY Magazine — The Universality of the word “Huh?” (Melissa Dahl)

The Week — Pretty much everyone on earth says “Huh?” (Jeva Lange)

South China Morning Post — Huh? may be the one universal word, global study of languages suggests

Público — “Hã?”: uma palavrinha curta, simples e quase igual em todas as línguas (Ana Gerschenfeld)

ABC — La expresión ‘eh?’ es universal

La Repubblica — Per gli scienziati “Eh?” è la prima parola universale

Svenska Dagbladet — Forskare har hittat det universella ordet

Eurekalert (via Max Planck Society) — Universals of Conversation

Korea Times — A universal word

Major magazines, blogs & social media

TheAtlantic — The Universal Psychology of ‘Huh?’ (Olga Khazan)

New Statesman — What is the one word that is the same in every language? (Martha Gill) — Could one word unite the world? (Alva Noë)

BoingBoing — “Huh?” is the universal word (Cory Doctorow)

Improbable Research — Huh here, Huh there, Huh everywhere? (Marc Abrahams) — Video report about ‘Huh?’ (Paca Thomas) — Toutes les languages du monde ont un hein? en commun (Laurent Pointecouteau)

Smithsonian Magazine — What makes ‘huh?’ a universal word? (Arika Okrent)

Huffington Post — Huh is global, study shows

Reddit — Is “Huh?” a universal word?” (w/ 800+ comments)

Motherboard/Vice — “Huh?” Is the Closest We’ve Come to a Universal Word (Victoria Turk)

MentalFloss —  The word “Huh?” might be universal (Anna Green)

UpWorthy — Turns out, everybody says “huh?” or something pretty darn close (Dan Lewis)


According to Altmetric, about 800 Twitter users with a lower bound of 3.000.000 followers have tweeted the PLOS ONE paper directly. That estimate does not include the many thousands of Twitter users who have tweeted links to other media reports.

Our discovery also entered the mainstream of factoid-sharing channels, where hundreds of likes, comments, or retweets are the norm.

Radio & TV

NPR Science (Nov 16, 2013)

Scientific American Science Podcast (Nov 15, 2013)

DiscoveryNews (Nov 15, 2013)

CNN Chile (Nov 11, 2013) Leipzig (Nov 13, 2013)

And many more prominent programs that do not list their broadcasts online — ABC Melbourne  & 774 Breakfast Radio in Australia, CPR in Connecticut, etc.

Nederlandse media

De papieren versies van alle grote Nederlandstalige kranten berichtten over ons werk: Trouw (Wybo Algra), De Volkskrant (Mieke Zijlmans) en NRC Handelsblad (Ellen de Bruin), alsook De Telegraaf, Algemeen Dagblad en De Standaard. Ook de volgende belangrijke online publicaties:

Kennislink — Of je worst lust! (Over het universele woordje hè) (Mathilde Jansen)

Neder-L — Iedereen zegt Huh? (Marc van Oostendorp)

Taaljournalist — ‘Da’s convergente evolutie’ – ‘Hè?’ (Gaston Dorren) — Woordje ‘hè?’ blijkt universeel (Dennis Rijnvis)


Radio 1 — Labyrint (NTR/VPRO) (17 november)

Radio 2 — Spijkers met Koppen (VARA ) (16 november)

Radio 5 — Hoe?Zo! (NTR) (11 november)

Radio 1 België — Joos (12 november)