Aha Moment


Aha Moment
A phrase that describes “flashes of understanding,” which has been the subject of a curious copyright battle.

The insurance company Mutual of Omaha and Oprah Winfrey’s production company Harpo Productions Inc. have settled a dispute concerning the phrase “aha moment,” according to the Associated Press:

Mutual and Harpo began sparring earlier this year after Mutual starting using the slogan “official sponsor of the aha moment” in a national advertising campaign.
Harpo asked Mutual in a letter to stop using “aha moment” to promote its insurance and financial products because it didn’t want confusion about whether there was a relationship between Mutual and Winfrey. Winfrey’s representatives argued in April that the phrase was synonymous with Winfrey and her show. Winfrey often discusses “aha moments” — described on her magazine’s Web site as “those flashes of understanding” — with guests on her show.
Mutual responded with the lawsuit and documents showing it had obtained preliminary approval of a federal trademark.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the “aha experience” as:
a moment of sudden insight or discovery; the sudden finding of a solution to a problem; also aha moment, reaction, etc.
The O.E.D. traces an early German use of the phrase (“aha-erlebnis”) to 1908, and English uses to the 1930s:
1939 L. E. COLE Gen. Psychol. 666 ‘Aha-moment,’ the moment of insight.
1947 P. L. HARRIMAN Dict. Psychol. 18 ‘Ah-ah’ experience, the sudden achievement of insight … The catch-phrase … comes, of course, from the tale about Archimedes.
The O.E.D. also notes that Chaucer used “aha” in this context in “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” – “They crieden, out! A ha the fox! and after him thay ran” – in about 1386.


Dictionary of unconsidered lexicographical trifles. 2014.

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