Etymologically, I’m infatuated with “uh-oh”. I choose to imagine its formation thusly:
Glory begins in an “uh”—the involuntary spasm associated with confusion or unfamiliarity, it’s a commonplace verbal crutch oft extinguished with any formal public speaking training. It’s negative space before a cohesive thought, like a dial-tone waiting for instructions. And, with regard to “uh-oh”, this monosyllabic overture intonates a forthcoming thought still too primitive for higher linguistics or verbiage. To the poor souls who utter it, their minds grope at the ineffable harbinger with horrifying deftness.
Notice singularity in purpose of the “uh” and the “oh”: there’s no space. A space affords a pause… and if there’s time for pause, there’s time for action. But, in this moment, action is meaningless, so the a hyphen is used only to service grammarians and readers. It’s certainly not useful nor pertinent for its utterer who, clearly, has more pressing matters to attend to.
“Oh” is the moment of clarity when dire incomprehension shifts into sharp focus. “Oh” isn’t acknowledgement of a mistake—that’s “oops!”—or understanding that everything’s going to be ok. Quite the opposite, in fact: the “oh” is the implicit acceptance that this, whatever it is that is now harrowing down upon your consciousness, is not good. This much you know. There is little, if nothing, to immediately do or solve, and your mind accepts the eventuality. What will happen will happen, and the most amount of action you can muster is to vocalize your fantastic impotence with a word so fatalistic that it does not employ a hard consonant.
Revel in the uh-ohs. They’re the only moments when you can resign yourself to the fate of your circumstances.