Derek Denis, a post-doctorate fellow at the University of Victoria's linguistics department, has been studying the history of "eh" for more than five years. In his research, he has found references to the word going back well before Canadian Confederation 150 years ago.
The earliest use of the word Denis found appeared in an Irish play written in 1773. He believes "eh" travelled to Canada along with the influx in immigration. It jumped the pond and was first documented in the Thomas Chandler Haliburton book, The Clockmaker, written in 1836.
May 18, 2017
Derek Denis and "eh" on CBC Calgary
Derek Denis (Ph.D. 2015, now at the University of Victoria, soon to be back at UofT) has been interviewed by CBC Calgary: "Origins of 'eh': How 2 little letters came to define Canadians"