"Three cheers and a tiger"

I was just watching a documentary on the Bismark. After it was sunk, footage showed an assembly of British Naval members. One called for three cheers: “Hip! Hip! Hip!” and the crowed yelled “Hurray!” This, of course, was repeated twice. Then the officer yelled, “And the tiger! Hip! Hip! Hip!.. HURRAY!”

What is the origin of “the tiger”? Why is it called that?

In the U.S., people would yell “Hip!” twice before the “Hurray!” Why was it said thrice before the cheer? Does the “Hip!” have a meaning; or is it like “Ready, steady… GO!”?

Was “hip hip hurrah” originally an anti-Semitic taunt?

Can’t find anything about the tiger.

Gypsy: Tom, I don’t get you.
Tom Servo: Nobody does. I’m the wind, baby.


““Three cheers for the Thirty-first!” But the “boys” were not going to cheer for themselves and there were no others present to do it, so they stood in their ranks, silent and with military air, and cheered not nor stirred; whereupon the General shouted, “Cheer yourselves, boys! Hip! Hip!” and then the cheers were given with a will, followed by a “tiger” for the Union, and three groans for the Confederacy.”

Which just tends to muddy the water even more considering this use predates the Bismark. It does seem to be a military related though.

WAG: Could the “tiger” refer to a trophy brought back by the British occupiers of India?

“Three cheers for the hunting party, and one for the tiger who lead us such on a merry chase!”?

“I must leave this planet, if only for an hour.” – Antoine de St. Exupéry

Are you a turtle?

Obviously not the original use of the line, but I remember hearing a genie say “three cheers and a tiger for me” in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Bingo !

Three cheers and a Tiger

"The most compelling evidence, however, is what may be found in John Russell Bartlett’s A Glossary of Words and Phrases Usually Regarded as Peculiar to the United States, published in Boston in 1859. The following account will no doubt answer what a tiger actually was and is:

Tiger. In 1822, the Boston Light Infantry, under Captain Mackintosh and Lieut. Robert C. Winthrop, visited Salem and encamped in Washington square; and during their stay a few of the members indulged in sports incidental to camp duty, when some visitor exclaimed to one who was a little rough, “Oh, you Tiger!” It became a catch word, and as a term of playful reproach, “You’re a Tiger,” was adopted as one of the peculiar phrases of the corps. On the route to Boston some musical genius sung an impromtu line, “Oh, you Tigers, don’t you know,” to the air of “Rob Roy McGregor oh!” Of course the appellation soon induced the Tigers by name to imitate the actions of the Tiger, and the “growl” was introduced, and at the conclusion of three cheers, “a tiger” was invariably called for. [begin quote] In 1826, the Infantry visited New York, being the first volunteer corps to make a trip from this city to another State; and while there the Tigers at a public festival awoke the echoes and astonished the Gothamites by giving the genuine howl. It pleased the fancy of the hosts, and gradually it became adopted on all festive and joyous occasions, and now “three cheers and a tiger” are the inseparable demonstrations of approbations in that city. - Boston Evening Gazette [1856] [end quote]"

See the rest of the site for alternate ideas regarding the source of Three cheers and a Tiger.

The Great 19th Century American Cheer
Call and response with the cheer leader calling the call and the rest replying with the response.

(Call): Hip Hip - (Response) Hurrah (or Huzzah)…
(Call): Hip Hip - (Response) Hurrah (or Huzzah)…
(Call): Hip Hip - (Response) Hurrah (or Huzzah)…
…and the Tiger: “Gr-r-r-r-r-r”

The Tiger is a loud guttural growl that is used as a exclamation to add even more emphasis to the cheer. Not everything gets a Tiger, mind you, but when one is truly deserved, it becomes the epitome of thank you’s.

I am not sure of the origin but British military custom seems to be a good bet. It was used during the American Rebellion of 1861-65.

I was a Civil War reenactor twenty-some years ago, and once my Ohio infantry unit was grouped with several other similar units in a battalion. The brigadier general in charge of the entire outfit would call for “Three cheers and a tiger” now and then. I’d never heard of it before or since.