This word may bring to mind a preferred adjective of a paradoxically half-baked yet overdone blowhard. “Yuge! It’s gonna be yuge!” It looks like another way of spelling it, doesn’t it? One that is simultaneously quasi-classical-looking and yet iconic of a revulsion reaction, the cut-eye glance e e with the ug in the middle like a thought balloon.
But this is a word seasoned by time. It manifests another paradox: that truly well done things are rare.
Is this word well done? Would I steak my name on that? Sorry, I mean stake? I could. It is a Greek bearing a gift. It comes from εὖγε euge, the bits being eu ‘well, good’ (as in eulogy, euphoria, euthanasia) and ge ‘done’. It was a cry of approbation in Greek, and was borrowed whole cloth into Latin.
But how was it pronounced? In the original Greek, it would have been two syllables, something like /ɛw gɛ/. The pronunciation of Greek has progressed over the ages so that in modern Greek (where it still exists) it is said /ɛv jɛ/ (i.e., “ev yeh”). But when Latin took it, it gained a syllable: /e u ge/. Shouted (as one may with such praise), it sounds a bit like an old car horn – just a little higher in the front than the classic “ah-oo-gah.”
But, you know, English has developed its own ways of saying words borrowed from Greek and Latin. We know how we say Eugene, which comes from Greek for ‘well bred’ (the gene from the same root as genesis and generation – and gene, for that matter). The correct English pronunciation of euge, when it’s actually said, is /ju d͜ʒi/ (i.e., “you gee” – in other words, Eugene without the /n/). The ferment and curing of the ages can have profound effects, and whether you think they are improvements is a matter of taste.
But it’s not actually said very often. It may be ‘well done’, but it is rare. We have other ways of saying things are well done, of course – for one, we borrow from Italian the expression bravo (which, by the way, modern Greeks do too: another way of saying ‘Well done!’ in Greek now is Μπράβο!, which is just a modern Greek transliteration of Bravo!). Ironically, we have also made bravo a noun (uncommon now, true) meaning ‘daring or reckless villain; hired assassin; desperado’. Somone in the line not so much of “Euge!” as of “Yuge!”