My last name is the most common word in all of humanity

The Los Angeles Times reports that “Huh?” is the most universal word in the world:

Researchers traveled to cities and remote villages on five continents, visiting native speakers of 10 very different languages. Their nearly 200 recordings of casual conversations revealed that there are versions of “Huh?” in every language they studied — and they sound remarkably similar.

Minus the question mark, that word also happens to be my last name: 허. Most Korean surnames are easy to romanize (e.g., 김, 정, 안, 윤, 신, 문, 조 etc.), while names like 박 and 이 and have close-enough Western spellings. Alas, 허 poses a somewhat greater challenge.

When my dad first came to the United States, he spelled his name the way it sounds: Huh. Needless to say, that didn’t go over too well in his newly adopted country. Invariably, people would puzzle over it for a moment, then valiantly forge ahead with either “hoo” or “huh?”

Dad soon had enough of this and opted instead for “Hau,” which we pronounce “how.” Over the years, we’ve stuck with it, even though it was an imperfect solution because 1) people still mispronounce our altered last name (usually as “haw”) and 2) it sounds so Chinese that even other Koreans get confused when they hear it. Pair it with my first name (Lou) and you might as well stamp “中國” on my forehead.

Nevertheless, I’ve always preferred Hau over the alternatives. A common romanization of 허 is Hur, which has inevitably led to a proliferation of Korean guys named “Ben Hur.” Then there are those intrepid souls who stick to their guns and go by “Huh,” like golfer John Huh, the PGA Tour’s rookie of the year in 2012. The Orlando Sentinel had fun with Huh’s name when it profiled him earlier this year:

Because of his amusingly ambiguous last name, John Huh has jokingly been referred to as Johnny Question Mark. Except that uncertain moniker may soon be changing…Johnny Question Mark, it seems, is quickly turning into Johnny Exclamation Point.

Another prominent Huh in the U.S. is the CEO of the company that runs I Can Has Cheezburger?, FAIL blog and Know Your Meme. His name is also Ben, despite not spelling his name Hur. Given his line of work, perhaps my fellow 허씨 brother-in-arms will someday come up with a meme that plays off our “amusingly ambiguous” last name.


Carlznerson apparently water their lawns the same way. Huh. (Also, John Carlson has some underrated junk in the trunk.)

last night i had a dream where i met “the real dave strider” and the whole dream was just me, hanging out with him. i’m so confused, i don’t even like dave that much.

also for one part of it i was in my john cosplay??? and i told him i shipped him with john??? and i like…lived….with him? i am…so…confused. try and analyze this dream, dream-analyzing people.