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September 5, 2019

I’ve just returned from a short family holiday in the beautiful city of Seville. On one of the websites about the place I was amused to read that amongst other Spaniards the citizens of Seville have a reputation for being somewhat hoity-toity. That’s a strange term, isn’t it? Hoity-toity. It’s part of a whole group of informal two-word phrases in English that consist of two rhyming nonsense words, the first beginning with h. Thus we have: higgledy-piggledy, handy-dandy, hugger-mugger, harum-scarum, Humpty-Dumpty, happy-clappy, hippy-dippy, hotsy-totsy, helter-skelter, hokey-cokey, hurley-burley, hubble-bubble and of course the heebie-jeebies. There is also hunky-dory, although that one doesn’t rhyme.

I should say, by the way, that in my limited interactions with Sevilleans they weren’t hoity-toity at all, but very friendly and polite.

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  1. Simon Carter permalink

    Also hanky panky , hurdy gurdy, honey bunny, hotch potch, holy moley, hob nob, Hobson Jobson, hootchie kootchie. Why so many Hs?

    • Oh yes, there are loads! Thanks for extending the list. I didn’t know Hobson Jobson. We could also add honky-tonk. As to why they all begin with H, I was hoping someone could enlighten me.

      • Ross Foley permalink

        It crosses my mind that the archives of Stephen Fry’s rather good programme on Radio 4 – Fry’s English Delight – might have an explanation. A few weeks back, I tuned in just as he was getting warmed up on the subject of word order in English adjectives, eg big, bad wolf but never bad, big wolf. Seems there are unspoken rules about word order in this; he had an expert on to explain. He may have covered hoity-toity format with another expert, possibly?

  2. Simon Carter permalink

    And of course hip hop to show the process is ongoing.

  3. Mark Brafield permalink

    I think we’ve missed ‘hocus pocus’. Also, I remember at school, if you wanted to laugh sarcastically at someone’s ‘amusing’ comment, you had to say ‘hardy ha – ha’.

  4. Simon Carter permalink

    I’m pretty sure that Hardy ha ha was popularised by Jackie Gleason on The Honeymooners in the 1950s.

  5. Simon Carter permalink

    Coincidentally we also have the actor Harry Carey and the footballer Hakan Yakin. There is also Angel Rangel but he doesn’t fit the H scheme.

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