Hep! Hep! Hurrah

Further to the post on the above I wish to add further insight to the origin of this phrase.

Hep! Hep! Hurrah originated after the Roman final siege of Jerusalem in 135 A.D. against the false Messiah, Bar-Cochebas, who had acquired possession of the ruins.
Not much is known of this, perhaps the most awful of all the sieges. So great and severe was the struggle, that Hadrian, in announcing to the Roman Senate the conclusion of the war, refrained from using the usual congratulatory phrase.

The city was now obliterated. Its very name was changed and it was renamed Aelia Capitolinus.
So great was the relief which Rome experienced by this suppression of Jerusalem and the Jews, that the toast became common at Roman feasts, “hierosolyma Est Perdita,” “Jerusalem is destroyed,” the guests immediately greeting it with the shout “Hurrah.”

This is the origin of our “Hep!Hep! Hurrah,” H, E, P, being the abbreviation of the three words, formed by their initial letters (on the principle known as Notarica, or Notricon.
To this day ‘Hep’ or ‘Hip’ is said by only one person, the rest joining in the shout which greets it.
Courtesy of Dr.E.W. Bullinger’s work on “Number in Scripture”.

Please link to the column involved in the future so that others can read along. This in is reference to Was “hip hip hurrah” originally an anti-Semitic taunt?

The questioner also mentions the theory that “hip hip hurrah” derives from an abbreviation of the Latin Hierusylema Est Perdita, “Jerusalem is destroyed.” This is so nutty that Cecil didn’t even bother to shoot it down.

“Number in Scripture” is an 1894 work on Biblical Numerology. It appears to be one of the classic crackpot works. [And you thought the Bible Code was something new.]

Needless to say, no modern lexicographer believes that this origin of the phrase is remotely possible.

Always remember the prime directive of etymology, paraphrasing Cecil: If someone suggests an acronym for a word that pre-dates World War II, run screaming in the other direction. Think “cop”, “posh”, “tip”, “the f-word”.

And that’s the whole nine yards!

Sole exception: “OK.”

Oddly, the Romans were in fact known for using acronyms, so the suggestion is not as obviously wrong as the folk etymologies for cop or tip.

Quotes from Wikipedia.


There’s also the Biblical INRI

There’s also the tetragrammaton, YHVH, the transliteration of the four Hebrew letters that are used in place of the ineffable name of god.

Given this background, it’s not surprising that folk etymology would develop other initialisms related to the bible or Rome. It’s just that this particular one is surely wrong.

But we don’t know that any of those are acronyms. They’re abbreviations, sure, but were SPQR or INRI considered words?

I don’t distinguish between initialisms and acronyms in casual speech. For my opinions of those that do, I’d have to use the pit. :smiley:

Rubbish. “Acronym” means “acronym”. To use it to mean something else for which there are already at least two other existing English words is sheer, wanton verbicide.

“Let no one say, and say it to your shame,
that there was meaning here before you came.”
– C. S. Lewis

Well, but what I mean is, in this case, I think you have to. I mean, when people say “hep, hep, hoorah!”, they say “hep”. They don’t say “aich-eee-pee”…they don’t say each letter seperately.

When the Romans used SPQR on stuff, if they read it, I believe they read each letter. They didn’t have a word that sounded like “spqr”. So that would be an abbreviation, but not the same thing as an acronym like “radar” or “nasa”

But I, sir, am not a verbicide, but a verbivore.

Rubbish yourself. Initialism is not even included in my American Heritage College dictionary, which suggests that it is not a good fit for casual use. (Nor is it in my spell checker’s dictionary.)

The Encarta College edition does have an entry for initialism, and a language note under abbreviation.

The note lists four types of abbreviations: shortenings, contractions, initialisms, and acronyms. This suggests that the use of abbreviation in reference to SPQR could lead to confusion.

So if abbreviation will not work, and initialism is too technical a word for everyday speech, what is one to do? Why not use a word which is common, widely understood to mean formed of initials, and already has a long history of such usage?

When good writers use a new (or newer) sense of a word, it becomes a legitimate sense of that word. I am a good writer.

Q.E.D. :slight_smile:

Yes, but YHVH (yah-weh) and INRI (in-ree) were indeed used as acronyms. Which means that there still would be ample precedent.

YHWH isn’t an abbreviation of any sort, and the inscription on the Cross was “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaorum”, not the abbreviation. I’m not sure when just the letters “INRI” became used, nor when or whether they ever came to be pronounced.

And regardless of what one calls it, an abbreviation where the letters are sounded individually, like “SPQR”, is a different sort of thing from where they’re sounded as a complete word, like (allegedly) “Hep”.

Perhaps the more pertinent question is how these terms were perceived in 1894, and whether somebody like Bullinger would have seen them as precedent, which is all I am suggesting.

Also, and samclem might be the best one to ask, whether cop had already picked up a folk etymology of constable on patrol.

emphasis mine

Possibly a nitpick but, yes he did.

Admittedly, he could have done so more vehemently but, as Uncle Cecil points out from time to time, he is up against a word limit.

I know this seems picky, but I have heard this rhetoric from time to time (something is so ridiculous, inane, nutty that Cecil didn’t bother to address it) and it just doesn’t pass muster. There have been plenty of threads in this forum with an OP asking why Cecil didn’t answer the original question! Cecil may be all knowing, but even he can’t fit everything in.

Hello all,

If anyone is still interested in this topic, I’ve filed a full report on the supposed origin of “Hep! Hep!” as an acronym of Hierosolyma Est Perdita (Jerusalem is Lost/Destroyed). The short answer is, No way; it’s not. The longer answer, though, is a lot more interesting. I’ve put an interim draft of the paper up on my blog and would be grateful for feedback. In a few months the report will be published as an appendix to a scholarly paper. The draft also includes a picture of the first print mention of the acronym.

The link is here: https://www.academia.edu/9305194/On_the_Acronym_Origin_of_the_English_Phrase_Hep_Hep_


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