I guess if I could have a talk with Noam Chomsky, or some other eminent linguist or language morphologist, I would know this officially.
For whatever reason, we do things in threes. Jokes are usually in threes. We most-often present three concepts for a creative presentation. It's probably also the number of times we ask our boss for a raise before giving up.
I think about this because I realize I have three levels of "OY." And yesterday, I skipped levels one and two and leapt right to level three.
The first level of OY, is generalized anxiety, hardship, malaise or disdain for the world we live in. It's a free-floating sort of OY. It comes out willy-nilly and is a pressure release. You feel better saying it but the pervasiveness of your plaints are such that nothing will change. It's "Oy, this assignment sucks." Or "Oy, this line producers is a dick-less herring."
The second level of OY is more heightened. With the addition of VEY IZ MIR it becomes personal, a hardship happening directly to you that will affect your life. An unreasonable deadline. A client comment from the CEO. This is when you go up a notch and let loose an OY VEY IZ MIR.
The third level of OY struck me yesterday. I got a late in the day call from my doctor. Our conversation went like this:
"George, it looks like you might have a blood clot in your lungs."
OY FUCK combines the ballast of 6,000 years of Jewish suffering, tragedy and displacement with the sensate horror of our modern sensibility. It is everything bad, past and present, in two syllables.
I jumped into a cab. I was injected with iodine and CT-scanned.
Just persistent pericarditis.