The Inexplicably Comforting Oh-No Button



AKA The Automated Aporia Announcement

Some time ago, I came across The Drama Button, which is, as its creators claim, a useful tool “for all of life’s unnecessary drama.”

As it turns out, my own life is so dull that even unnecessary drama is a rare an event. Consequently, the Drama Button, through no fault of its design or function, has proved of little utility to me.

My life is, however, chock-full of ancillary anxiety aspiring to angst.

Which brings us to aporia, the “expression of doubt, usually feigned, about what the speaker should say, think, or do.”1 Aporia is often expressed as, “Oh no!” or the more expansive, “Oh no! Whatever shall I do now?”

Aporia In Show-off Mode


As a rhetorical device, aporia has a history of use in distinguished literary contexts by notables from ancient Greek phi losophers (e.g., Socrates and Aristotle) to modern novelists (e.g. Samuel Beckett). Richard Nordquist, in What Is Aporia, notes

In classical rhetoric, aporia means placing a claim in doubt by developing arguments on both sides of an issue. In the terminology of deconstruction, aporia is a final impasse or paradox – the site at which the text most obviously undermines its own rhetorical structure, dismantles, or deconstructs itself.

The most famous example of aporia in English literature is Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy in Shakespeare’s great tragedy. The opening question introduces the fundamental uncertainty that characterizes the passage as a whole:

To be, or not to be: that is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

(William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, scene 1)

Contemporary Usage

These days, however, most of us lack the time, funding, or inclination to track down a skull and hire a theater in order to skulk about a stage, muttering to oneself in order elocute an aporia or two. Yet, as we will see, aporia-appropriate moments fill modern day life.

This unmet need for an efficacious means of expressing an aporia-denoting sentiment has led the DrHGuy Research Department to develop the Oh-No Button.2

What The Oh-No Button Does

For myself and the friends to whom I’ve demonstrated this tool, pushing (clicking) the Oh-No Button (in this case, the Oh-No Button is the arrowhead at the left end of each player – because I didn’t have time to code the mp3 player to look like a button) has proven not only profoundly gratifying but also surprisingly useful for putting things in perspective.

When To Use The Oh-No Button

The most effective method to explain how and when the Oh-No Button should be used is via examples.

Situations In Which The Oh-No Button Is Appropriate

When your beloved child declares

Dad, the new, incredibly violent semi-porn movie opens today but I don’t have the $12 for a ticket.


Mom, everyone is going to the mall/Joey’s party/China/the spa/etc except me.


I want/ I need/ I must have …


You are so unfair.


When your parent says

When I was your age, …


You’re 3 minutes late; I was worried about you.


You are so unfair.


When you realize

It’s Monday morning.


It looks like rain.


I want dessert but cherry pie is bad for me.


When your sweetie says

I’m so horny I can’t stand it.


Your Own Oh-No Button


Note: Originally posted Sep 7, 2009 at, a predecessor of


  1. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition []
  2. In this case, “develop” means “find an ‘On-No’ mp3 file and load it in a player.” The sound file came from one of the 38,767 software packages I’ve used over the years. []

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