To begin with, 'eh?' is an indicator, sure and infallible, that one is in the presence of an authentic Canajan speaker. Although 'eh?' may be met with in Briddish and Mare Can litter choor, no one else in the world 'eh?s' his way through life as a Canajan does, nor half so comfortably.
By contrast, 'huh?' is a grunt; 'what?' foppish and affected; and
'hein?' nasal and querulous. Whereas 'eh?' takes you instantly into the speaker's
confidence. Only 'eh?' is frank and open, easy and unaffected, friendly and even intimate.
Viewed syntactically, 'eh?' may appear solo or as part of a set of words, in which case it may occupy either terminal, medial or inital position. We shall consider these briefly.
Its commonest solo use is as simple interrogative calling for the repetition of something either not heard because inaudible or, if heard, then not cearly understood. In this context 'eh?' equals 'What did you say?', 'How's that?' Or in Canajan, 'Wadja say?', 'Howzat?'
According to intonation, the meaning of solo 'eh?' may vary all the way from inquiry (as we have seen) through doubt to incredulity.
Here are a few examples:
'I'm giving up smoking.' 'Eh?' (A cross between what? and oh yeah?)
'Could you load me two bucks?' 'Eh?' (Are you kidding?)
'Here's the two bucks I owe you.' 'Eh?' (I don't Believe it!)
'Eh?' in terminal position offers a running commentary on the speaker's narrative, not unlike vocal footnotes:
'I'm walking down the street, eh?' (Like this, see?)
'I'd hadda few beers en I was feeling priddy good, eh?' (You know how it is.)
'When all of a sudden I saw this big guy, eh?' (Ya see.)
'He musta weighed all of 220 pounds, eh?' (Believe me.)
'I could see him from a long ways off en he was a real big guy, eh?' (I'm not fooling.)
'I'm minding my own business, eh?' (You can bet I was.)
'But this guy was taking up the whole sidewalk, eh?' (Like I mean he really was.)
'So when he came up to me I jess stepped inta the gudder, eh?' (I'm not crazy, ya know.)
'En he went on by, eh?' (Just like that.)
'I gave up, eh?' (What else could I do?)
'Whattud you a done, eh?' (I'd like to know since you're so smart.)
'Eh?' is medial position is less common and so more prized by collectors:
'We're driving to Miami, eh?, for our holidays.' (Like where else?)
'There aren't many people, eh?, that can find their way around Oddawa like he can.' (You know as well as I do.)
'Eh?' rarely appears in initial position. This, while one might ask: 'N'est-ce pas qu'il a de la chance?', Canajans could only say: 'He's lucky, eh?'
Forners are warned to observe extreme caution with 'eh?' since nothing will give them away more quickly than its indiscriminate use. Like the pronunciation of Skatchwan (only much more so), it is a badge of Canajanism which requires half a lifetime to learn to use with the proper panache.
A teacher at Arm See suggested recently that 'eh?' is not Canajan since it may also be found in the Knighted States, the You Kay, and Sou Thafrica. In the same way sign tists have tried to prove that hockey was not invented in Canada, but Canajans remain unconvinced, eh?