Wild West Sayings We Use Today, part 16
Hoity-toity is an example of a reduplicated phrase, with one word conveying the meaning and the other rhyming for emphasis. In this case, the now-defunct verb ‘hoit’ referred to indulging in riotousness. ‘Hoit’ (to romp, riot, or play the fool) evolved from ‘hoyden’ (an overbearing fool or rambunctious female lacking in manners).
The change in definition seems to have come from the pronunciation of ‘hoity’ as ‘heighty,’ lending the impression of haughtiness to the term.
Historical Reference: The riotous meaning for hoity-toity first appeared in the 1668 translation by Sir Roger L'Estrange of The Visions of Don Francisco de Quevedo Villegas: "The Widows I observ'd ... Chanting and Jigging to every Tune they heard, and all upon the Hoyty-Toyty, like mad Wenches of Fifteen."
The term took on its present meaning around the mid-1800s. It is found in O'Keefe's Fontainebleau (1784): "My mother...was a fine lady, all upon the hoity-toities, and so, good for nothing."
Example: Wearing long evening gloves and pointing pinkies while sipping tea is all very hoity-toity.
Hold Your Horses
This slang expression directs another person to calm down and be patient. The origins are unclear, and the practical use of this phrase before the idiom emerged complicate the matter. However, it’s likely that the slang had its genesis in America, where in the 1800s, ‘hosses’ was slang for horses. ‘Hold your hosses’ appeared many times in print in America, beginning in 1844. ‘Hold your horses’ didn’t arrive in the slang sense until the 1900s. The original version hasn’t died out, as I can testify. I’ve heard the phrase with ‘hosses.’
Historical Reference: The slang term first appeared in the September 1844 edition of The Picayune, a New Orleans newspaper: “Oh, hold your hosses, Squire. There’s no use gettin’ riled, no how.”
Example: “Hold your horses, son. I’m still deciding whether to let you drive the car tonight.”
The Jig is Up
Historical Reference: The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York 1997) references the Elizabethan era connection.
Example: “The jig is up! You’re not fooling anyone by passing off a sweet potato pie for a pumpkin one.”
Thanks as ever for joining me in celebrating the history of words. So tell me, can you name any other words that are probably reduplications? (Another example is helter skelter.) Have you ever heard someone say 'hosses' for 'horses'? Have you ever been found out in a practical joke?
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