Bettyanne Green

Content Marketing Strategist | Concierge Copywriter

Your Aha! Moment: Definitive Usage Guide

 

With origins in Chaucer, Shakespeare and the King James version of the Bible, this charming 3-letter exclamation seems to have captured America’s heart. And why not? We live in an age of self-discovery and the unexpected (and ‘Eureka!’ sounds so last century).

Many of my clients have welcomed ‘aha’ into their lives – and in all manner of spellings, punctuation and sentence placement. “Aha!”  I sez, “it’s time to get the official scoop on this tricky little devil!”

So let’s start with the many spelling variations floating around out there:

aha (the “official” dictionary version – P.S. I could find NO plural spelling online – are we not allowed to talk about multiple ahas???)

aha! (also accepted. I prefer this spelling because it is, after all, an exclamation – but a beast when you try to put punctuation around it)

Ah hah (you can almost taste the malicious joy in this one)

A ha (Chaucer’s version, or one-third of a laugh)

A’ha (no idea but I see it all the time)

Ah’a (same thing)

A-ha (Take me on! 80s fans, you get this)

AHA (American Hospital Association, American Heart Association et al – so don’t ever use it in caps)

AHHA (acronym for after hours home avoider: a young person who prefers to spend time after work socializing rather than return to an empty home – true, it’s a thing!)

‘Aha’ defined

Merriam-Webster:  “Exclamation used to express surprise, triumph, or derision; when something is suddenly seen, found, or understood; to express discovery or understanding” 

Playwright and humorist Neil Simon submitted these to William Safire’s NY Times column On Language:

”Aha! is also stalling for time when someone makes a statement you don’t understand but pretend to.

”Aha! is also said sarcastically to your daughter when she says she came home at 11:00 last night when you know it was 12:15.

”Aha! can be a response when you know something but find it unnecessary to share, as for example, Sherlock Holmes picking up an object and exclaiming, ‘Aha!’ to which Watson asks, ‘What is it, Holmes?’ ‘I’ll let you know when we get to Blenheim Castle. Quickly, Watson. To Victoria Station.’

”Aha! can also mean quite simply, when you finally think you know what life is about.

“And lastly, Aha! can be the first half of an incompleted sneeze.”

Then there’s Urban Dictionary’s definition: The mathematical equivalent of experiencing an orgasm—usually experienced when one proves a conjecture, or solves a vintage problem in a creative way.”  

How to use ‘aha!’

What a useful little word! And, again, often a challenge to use it correctly. Here are a few examples of ‘aha’ in a sentence. You’ll notice that the different ways it appears may elicit a different response. As Safire says, It’s “deliciously nuanced.” So, spell it correctly – either ‘aha’ or ‘aha!’ – then use it freely with a clear idea of the impact you want to make.

Aha! I solved the mystery of my missing money!

Aha, so that’s where he hides his money.

She was glad she attended his talk because of the “Aha!” moments.

You’ll experience myriad ahas as a result of working with me.

“Aha!” he exclaimed, “Now I get it!”

I hope I’ve given you some “Aha!”  moments. If you have any better ideas for the plural version, I’d love to know! Or questions on usage and punctuation. Please comment below.

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