Origin of Hep

When flicking throuhg a French dictionary looking up something else, I came across 'hep and its translation was hey. This makes me wonder the true origin of the ska term “hep hep hep”. Anyone know anything?

“Hep” as “in the know” is actually an old slang term – the OED has its first cite in 1908 (that’s not a typo). The origin is listed as “unknown,” though. It bears some resemblance to “hip,” also meaning “in the know,” which appeared a couple of years earlier. Hard to say which came first.

“Hep Hep Hep” is even older – First cite in 1839 (with a second cite that dates it 20 years earlier). And very interestingly, it’s given as coming from the initials of a Latin phrase: Hierosolyma Est Perdita, which is a goatherd’s cry. That would make it one of the oldest words (if not the oldest) formed from initials, over a century before anything else I’m aware of. However, it was first used as a cry as people beat up Jews. :eek:

Is there a connection with the ska term? Possibly. Probably from the “in the know” meaning; the antisemitism angle is known only to etymologists and historians.