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Mar 18 2013   8:20PM GMT

What does “welp” mean — and why do we say it?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?

My mom signed up for WordPress… ___, I guess blogging is officially over.
a. Welp
b. Wellp
c. Whelp


Answer: a.

Explanation:
Oh, you know there are rules for everything, even if we make them up as we go along. And, although it’s not in most dictionaries yet, we’ve pretty much settled on the standard spelling of “welp.” It means the same thing as “well.” The “p” on the end indicates that the speaker has slammed his lips shut.

Here are some examples of its use online:

>Welp, It’s Official: Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn Are Dating
>Welp, Here’s Another Sign That Ben Affleck And Jennifer Garner May Not Be So Happy
>Welp, This Is Officially the Best Lena Dunham Impression Ever

In a fascinating post on Slate.com, Katie Kilkenny provides a lot more information about “welp” than you might think was available. For example:

Welp occurs when someone abruptly closes off the word well—an occurrence known as a bilabial stop, as linguist Ben Zimmer explained to me—and is akin to the similar slang words yep and nope.* That abrupt closure seems to enhance the sense of resignation in the word well when used as an interjection. Welp is a word to use, as one Urban Dictionary definition puts it, “When one feels there is no more to say.”

“Welp” is usually said to come either from Southern dialects or teen culture. That said, should you use it, if all your friends do?

Kilkenny quotes Grant Barrett, co-host of the public radio show A Way With Words:

Give me an American who says well where all others say welp and I’ll reveal that person to be an offworld alien who has failed at fitting in. Probably a lonely alien, too. He’ll need to learn that word if he wants to abruptly start or finish uncomfortable topics, just like the natives.

Welp, that’s about it for this post.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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