From http://www.tfd.com/alas, alas means

to express sorrow, regret, grief, compassion, or apprehension of danger or evil.

Would people say it in their everyday speaking English, or it is for written English normally?

I am actually seeking words/phrases that mean something went unexpected wrong, like "Shoot"

  • "Shoot; it's raining."
  • "Shoot; I forgot to bring my phone."
  • "Shoot; I'm late."

What are the other alternatives in spoken English?

  • 1
    Note that nobody I know would ever utter "alas" unless they were being facetious.
    – Martha
    May 21, 2014 at 14:32

1 Answer 1


By your example, what you are looking for are called interjections.

Interjections are one of the places swearing (vulgarities) is often used, e.g. "Oh, hell!", "God damn it!", and stronger language. It's extremely idiomatic, but can be very problematic in certain contexts.

Milder interjections include:

  • Like "shoot": "crap", "heck", "darn" -- substitute expressions for swearing.

  • "Oh no!", "Oh, yuck!", "Ah, man!", "Bother!" -- expressions of dismay

  • A variety of sounds which are not typically written as words: "Argh!", "Hrmph!", "Ack!" and sighing.

Some American English-speakers borrow from the Yiddish: "Oy vey!" or just "Oy!"

  • 1
    OED's first citation for "shoot" as an interjection is Webster's New Internat. Dict. Eng. Lang. 2319/2 Shoot.., interj. Pshaw! Bother! — often with "it". That last point gives some credibility to the idea that the usage derives from shoot = discard, get rid of (c.f. troubleshoot) rather than simply being a euphemism for shit. Whatever - I know it's AmE, and I'm a BrE speaker anyway, but to me shoot just sounds like a dated and uneducated "hillbilly, country bumpkin" usage. May 17, 2014 at 20:22
  • @FumbleFingers Interesting! But that suggests to me it's as likely that "oh, shoot it!" is a euphemism for the venerable, "Oh, god damn it to hell!" May 17, 2014 at 20:41
  • @FumbleFingers Re "hillbilly"/"dated": My coworker in the next office uses "shoot" completely sincerely. It's not, mind you, that I disagree with your reading. Said coworker is very religious and socially conservative. It illustrates the problem with interjections in general: they are hugely class/culture/context signifying, and very, very tricky to navigate. I say this as someone who moved from a career in a field (IT) in which vulgar interjections were perfectly normal in professional circles, to one in which it's Not Done. Dammit. May 17, 2014 at 20:44
  • Yeah - until you're really up to snuff with the limits of "acceptability" in any given social context, interjections are pretty much like swear-words. The safest thing is never to use anything "slangy" until you've heard someone else use it in the current context/society. Especially if you're not sure about terms which might potentially be seen as loaded, offensive, dated, childish, inappropriately class-specific, or whatever. May 17, 2014 at 21:47
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    @FumbleFingers Yes, and add to that "used by someone of equivalent relative social stature". Just because your boss can get away with it doesn't necessarily mean you can! And just because nobody blinks when the janitor says it doesn't mean the same will be true for you. May 17, 2014 at 22:18

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