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(Edit: Any American English (or dialectically non-specific) alternative for "bloody hell!" Or "blimey!"?)

I'm looking for a short exclamation that implies that the character has been "driven up the wall." It has to be short (preferably one word) because the protagonist, a chimp, mimics this oft used expression of his keeper; and should be a "word" instead of a "sound" because it is the first human word uttered by the protagonist (the chimp).

I don't really have much choice with the phrasing since it's a text I'm translating (from Korean). The writer is going for a rather poignantly funny effect. The word the keeper uses (really short expression in Korean (that means "this drives me nuts") is widely used by people and is not an expletive. The humor lies in that the very first word the chimp happens to speak is this rather pithy but expressive word.

The context is as follows:

You might think I am being too sensitive to what is merely a fictional account. I do not deny it. The chimpanzee Eugene is a being of my dreams after all. He is my dream in the literal sense of the word. Compared with his splendid, sublime soul, mine is but insignificant and pathetic. It was that way right from the first human word I uttered: “Nuts!” A word the keeper in charge of me would spit out at the drop of a hat. The keeper's eyes popped as he stared at me. Disbelief was clearly written on his face. I held his stare in silence, with my chin raised and the corners of my lips curled up in a faint smile. The keeper, who was boring into me with his eyes, turned ashen; it had sunk in. I had not simply mimicked his voice. Yes, I fully grasped the significance of the word I had uttered. This took place five years after I was captured by humans who shot me with a tranquilizer gun. I can picture that day in my mind’s eye like a dreamscape. It took only minutes for me to lose consciousness after the dart hit me, but it felt like a lifetime.

Two words I could think of were "Jesus!" and "Nuts!". I have ruled out "Jesus!" because of the religious connotations that I want to avoid. "Nuts!" also could be problematic because of the sexual connotation of the word. Any ideas?

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In the context of a zoo and a keeper, "Nuts" could also be taken literally (I probably would have thought the keeper was FEEDING the chimp nuts, and saying something like, "Does Chimpie want some yummy nuts?"). –  Anna M May 15 '13 at 21:08
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5 Answers

Gaaah!

It may not fit for you, given the precision of your narrator's wording. But it's kinda fun that it's not exactly a word.

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Haha this one is funny as hell. Thanks :) –  Soulz May 19 '13 at 6:01
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There are approximately 3,827 exclamations in English with such a meaning.

Partly it depends on how forceful and/or crude or offensive you want to be.

Very mild exclamations include "nuts", "shucks", and "darn". (I don't think many readers are likely to see a sexual connotation to a character saying, "I'm late again? Aw, nuts!" Unless the situation was sexual or you had just used the word in a sexual sense, it's just not likely to occur to most readers that it has another meaning in another context.) These are all words that make people think of someone very inoffensive.

Slightly stronger exclamations are words like "blast", "oh no", "come on", "give me a break", "wow", many others. These might be said by a very angry or upset person, but still would be unlikely to offend even the most conservative readers.

The next step up are words like "damn", "crap", "hell", etc. Basically words associated with religion or excrement. Use of such words might offend your more conservative readers.

And then there are all sorts of extreme vulgarities.

There are all sorts of slang terms for "good" and "bad" used by various sub-cultures. I don't claim to be current on such slang.

Personally I'd avoid using the more extreme words as they will offend some readers. If you use them repeatedly, there will be some number of people who will be quit reading, because who wants to go out of his way to be offended?

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Can you provide a cite for that number, 3,827? –  jwpat7 May 15 '13 at 19:49
    
Other mild exclamations: "argh!", "gah!" (mentioned in another answer), and "oy!". –  Monica Cellio May 16 '13 at 2:20
    
@jwpat7 That was hyperbole. –  Jay May 16 '13 at 18:02
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Off the top of my head:

  • "Man!" refers to humankind vs monkeys.
  • "Bananas!" and "nuts!" also refer to monkeys, but will be too ambiguous (the humour of the sitation will get lost).
  • "The horror!"
  • "Not this monkey business again..."
  • Filthy, but still acceptable: "Stink!", "Rotten tomatoes!"
  • Almost-religious: "Blazes!"

I don't think I've ever posted an answer with this many exclamation marks in it ;-)

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Charles Schulz (Peanuts) was fond of "AUUGH!"

ETA Okay, since you need a word to prove a chimp's sentence, something like "Blast!" might work.

Honestly, I think "This is driving me crazy" is the wrong thing to pursue for a one-syllable declaration of sentience, if only because the frustration inherent in the exclamation tends make humans incoherent. If sentient beings become so aggravated that they're reduced to grunts and growls, how could you use it to tell that a chimp is intelligent?

Think about Koko, the signing gorilla. Her big thing was her pet cat, a Manx whom she named All Ball. That says volumes more about her intelligence than one irritated epithet.

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I don't really have much choice with the phrasing since it's a text I'm translating (I didn't mention that bit). The writer is going for a rather poignantly funny effect. The word the keeper uses is widely used by people and is not an expletive. The humor lies in that the very first word the chimp happens to speak is this rather pithy but expressive word. –  Soulz May 17 '13 at 9:17
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@Soulz I think "This is a text I'm translating" is a fairly important part of your question! What language are you translating from? What's the word? What's the direct translation to English and why doesn't it work? In English we run "goddammit" together as one word even though it's really two or three, and no one would blink at calling that "one word." I suggest you edit your post again to include this clarifier and see if the community can give you better help. –  Lauren Ipsum May 17 '13 at 10:08
    
The non-expletive form would be "goshdarnit". –  starwed May 25 '13 at 5:30
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I like to use "OH SNAP!!!" or just "SNAP!!!"

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That tends to mean something other than "this is driving me crazy". –  Matt Эллен Jun 7 '13 at 9:05
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