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The First Foot Guards

We are a Revolutionary War reenactment group based in Boston MA,
accurately portraying the royal household regiment that is now known as
The Grenadier Guards

 

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Huzzah, or hurrah, or hooray?

 

A correspondent on Random House Word of the Day writes,
"We recently went to Colonial Williamsburg and noticed that the interpreters shouted Huzzah, huzzah when cheering something. When, and how, did huzzah change into hurrah and then today's hurray?"

Random House word expert replies…

Huzza or huzzah is first recorded in 1573. According to a number of writers in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was originally a sailor's cheer or salute: "It was derived from the marine and the shouts the seamen make when friends come aboard or go off." (1740).

The latest citations I found for huzzah are from the 19th century.
Dickens used it in Oliver Twist (1837-39):
"Strokes, thick and heavy, rattled upon the door and lower window-shutters as he ceased to speak, and a loud huzzah burst from the crowd." And Mark Twain used it in Tom Sawyer (1876): "...the population massed itself..., and swept magnificently up the main street roaring huzzah after huzzah!"

Hurrah and hurray first appeared late in the 17th century:
"Our Capt. ordered all his Guns to fire; at which they all of them fil'd the very Heavens with Hurras and Shouts." (1686).
It is clearly a later version of
huzzah.

However hurrah replaced huzzah as a cry of praise or exultation, it had pretty much happened by the 19th century. Hooray is a variant on hurrah that first appeared in 19th century America, along with hurroo and hoorah. The Oxford English Dictionary says,
"In English the form hurrah is literary and dignified; hooray is usual in popular acclamation."
The website of the Royal Navy notes that the navy "cheers hooray, not hurrah."

To this I add a verse from the 1745 song 'British Grenadiers':

And when the siege is over,
We to the town repair
The townsmen cry, "Hurrah, boys,
Here comes a Grenadier!"
Chorus: Here come the Grenadiers, my boys,
Who know no doubts or fears!
Sing tow, row, row …
For the British Grenadiers

The British Grenadiers

Although the words of old songs are mighty fickle, it seems that the townies may have shouted "Hurrah", while the Guards (upon command, of course) responded with 'huzzah".


Your fellow history buff,

Pvt Graeme Marsden

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