The exclamation ew has become an instantly recognizable expression of disgust. Used since the late 20th century, it has continued to gain ground in the 21st, perhaps because its two-character brevity makes it so well suited for electronic communication (ew appears almost twice as often as yuck in Oxford’s Twitter corpus). That said, ew isn’t always brief: it can also be spelled euw, and the u or w is sometimes repeated four or more times for emphasis. The earliest evidence of the word found by the OED‘s researchers dates from 1978, in a reporting of children’s speech:
1978 Washington Post 8 Sept. (Weekend section) 6/1 ‘Ewwww,’ said the kids. ‘They don’t have very many manners.’
This type of utterance probably existed in oral use for some time before it was recorded, but it seems possible that it may have appeared earlier in a more informal document, such as a screenplay, novel, or even a school yearbook. Can you help us find earlier evidence of ew?
Posted by OED_Editor on 7 February 2013 15.37