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Turns out, everybody says 'huh' — or at least something pretty darn close.

The one word that sounds the same and has the same meaning in every language.

There are many, many different languages spoken in this world — so many, in fact, that Wikipedia can't fit all of them in one list.

Instead, Wikipedia has a list of lists of languages. (That's a lot of languages!)

The list of lists is broken down by region of origin, and many languages share a common lineage.


But if you select two or three of different origins, you may end up with different character sets, sentence structures, and even different directionality. That is, you'll find few similarities between unrelated languages.

But there's one thing which we all — regardless of language — may have in common. One syllable, that is:

"Huh?"

Image via Thinkstock.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "huh" as an interjection that is "used when you have not heard or understood something that was said." That's the American English definition of the term, of course.

But it's also the definition of the same or very similar noise-like word in at least two dozen different languages, according to researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands.

What this research study found was that "Huh?" is "universal."

In their words:

"We sampled 31 languages from diverse language families around the world in this study, and we found that all of them have a word with a near-identical sound and function as English Huh?"

Quote is from an external site on which the authors summarize their study.

"This is an exception to the normal situation, namely that when words in different languages mean the same thing, they will usually sound completely different: compare, for example, these very different-sounding words for 'dog': inu in Japanese, chien in French, dog in English.

Why do these differences between the sounds of words across languages occur? Because language does not impose any necessary connection between sound and meaning in words (a principle that linguists call 'the arbitrariness of the sign'). This study shows that 'Huh?' is a rare exception to this otherwise strong rule."

Not convinced? You can read the full paper here, but if you're looking for a shorter bit of evidence, the researchers also put together a 21-second video with 10 recordings of a “huh"-like sound from various parts of the world — watch that here.

There are some variations in "huh" across languages, but they all follow a similar pattern.

As the Los Angeles Times explained:

"Sometimes this simple word started with a consonant, as does the English 'Huh?' or the Dutch 'Heh?' (Spellings are approximate.) Across all 10 languages, there were at least 64 simple consonants to choose from, but the word always started with an H or a glottal stop — the sound in the middle of the English 'uh-oh.'"

Amazingly, the research team concluded that these common sounds-as-words do not share a common origin.

As NPR explained, each of the languages surveyed developed the "huh" term independently: "Every language needs a way to for a listener to signal to the speaker that the message has not been received," and "'huh?' is so optimal — it's short, easy to produce, easy to hear, capable of carrying a questioning tone, and so on — that every human language has stumbled upon it as a solution."

Huh.

Dan Lewis runs the popular daily newsletter Now I Know ("Learn Something New Every Day, By Email"). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


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