BROUHAHA.

Marc Tracy has a very sad piece in the Tablet apologizing for having used the word brouhaha “freely and frequently.” What’s wrong with it, you ask? I’ll let him tell it:

I received a lovely email recently from one Bonny Fetterman. “I wonder if you are aware of the etymology of the word ‘brouhaha’ because if you were, you probably wouldn’t have used it in this title,” she wrote (I had typed it in reference to, of all things, the ADL). She continued, citing her high school teacher: “It was an anti-Semitic term in France, based on the words of Hebrew prayer, ‘Baruch atah … ’ which sounded like a confused mess to Frenchmen passing synagogues and came to signify a loud, confused mess.” Wait, really?

His initial response was a healthy one; unfortunately, his cursory online research having turned up the information that the word was from French, “said by Gamillscheg to have been, in medieval theater, ‘the cry of the devil disguised as clergy.’ Perhaps from Heb. barukh habba‘ ‘blessed be the one who comes,’” he decided that because Ms. Fetterman wrote “I bristle every time I hear the term,” “out of respect to her and other linguists among our readers, we will try to refrain from using it.”
In the first place, Ms. Fetterman is not a linguist, she’s just someone who heard a vague story from her high school teacher (!) and has been carrying a grudge ever since against a perfectly good word. Of course, people carry grudges against perfectly good words all the time, and that’s their prerogative, but there’s no reason anyone else need take account of it. Furthermore, the offending etymology is dubious in the extreme; note that the two versions given above conflict as to which Hebrew phrase is supposedly being imitated, and the American Heritage Dictionary just says “French, of imitative origin.” I deplore this drive to seek out inoffensive words, dig up alleged dirt about their origins, and then go around trying to get other people to stop using them. Does anyone think there is the slightest tinge of antisemitism in the use of the word brouhaha in English? No? Then for heaven’s sake find something more productive to focus your energy on. (Thanks for the link, Derryl!)

Comments

  1. ברוח אתא (baruch ata’) = you (masc.sg.) are/be blessed
    ברוח הבא (baruch ha-ba’) [beshem adonai] = blessed he who comes [in the name of the Lord, Psalm 118:26]
    If anything, it’s the latter.
    One Dr. Goodword finds it

    suspiciously similar to barruccaba “hubbub” in Italian dialects. Other words found in Italian dialects, such as badonai from Hebrew bi adonay “by God”, further suggest that Hebrew at one time was equivalent to “Greek” in the English idiom “it’s all Greek (gibberish) to me”. The derivation would then parallel that of English patter from Latin pater noster “our Father”.

  2. J.W. Brewer says:

    I had vaguely thought “brouhaha” was of Gaelic derivation, but some googling suggests that I may have confused it with “hubbub.” Or that I was in the grip of a stereotypical association between Celts and getting into brouhaha-producing sorts of situations.

  3. You mean as in: “as Paddy said to Mike while they were walking down Brouhahadway …” ?

  4. Thanks for clarifying this. I had my suspicions, and am glad to see this.

  5. rootlesscosmo says:

    And all this time I thought it was a combination of beer and nitrous oxide.

  6. Do you think “hysterical” is a word whose roots are recent enough for it to be worth getting offended by? I’ve always been slightly irked by that one.

  7. I can’t speak on behalf of all Jews (I don’t even know if I can speak on behalf of anyone else at all), but to me, even if it had that etymology, I wouldn’t find it offensive.
    I described the baruch haba (note the proper spelling in Hebrew ברוך הבא) in this post:
    http://www.balashon.com/2006/02/brouhaha-and-copacetic.html

  8. Aaron: Do you think “hysterical” is a word whose roots are recent enough for it to be worth getting offended by? I’ve always been slightly irked by that one.
    Why pick on the so useful word “hysterical” ? Suppose it were banned: what other word could be brought it to describe the behavior that “hysterical” describes ? “Overwrought”, perhaps ?

  9. Why pick on the so useful word “hysterical” ?
    Yeah, in spite of its admittedly unfortunate history, there’s no need to make a brouhaha.

  10. Aaron probably deserves a thoughtful answer, though — I just don’t have one.

  11. des von bladet says:

    This niggardly brouhaha is hysterical!

  12. John Emerson says:

    Women are still disproportionately accused of hysteria, and when “hysteria” was a serious medical diagnosis (by Charcot and Freud, and into the 1920s) it was specifically a sexual problem of females. According to Wiki, Many now consider hysteria to be a legacy diagnosis (i.e., a catch-all junk diagnosis), so apparently this term hasn’t entirely disappeared.
    This is a far case from a bad folk etymology of brouhaha.

  13. Thanks for getting down to the nitty gritty on this one, Hat.
    Is there a word for “spurious etymologies invented to allow someone to play the victim card”?

  14. This reminds me of that scene early in The Boondock Saints about the phrase rule of thumb. I always hated that sentiment.

  15. I’m no expert, but the purported Hebrew etymologies seem strained. So this is how myths take hold.
    I use the term once in a while, but I prefer ruaille-buaille /’ruːljə’buːljə/, an Irish term imported into Irish English; it means much the same: a row, noisy disorder or hubbub, commotion, ruction.

  16. This niggardly brouhaha is hysterical!
    I find your use of this and is very offensive. Hitler used those words constantly in his speeches.

  17. Stan – you hooligan.

  18. J.W. Brewer says:

    The claim that “hocus pocus” derives from “hoc est corpus” is suspect, but at least very old (attested in the 17th century) and there do apparently exist Roman Catholics who are offended (or at least purport to be offended) by it. I wouldn’t think they have any greater claim to have their sensitivities catered to than does Ms. Fetterman. On the other hand, while it’s never smart to assume that absolutely no one out there is offended by any randomly-chosen phrase, I don’t have the sense that Greek-Americans systematically purport to take offense at “it’s Greek to me.” So even if the dubious etymology were correct, I’m not sure what should follow. Certainly “speak a language we don’t understand and thus sounds to us like confused nonsense” is, let us say, not in the Top Ten of anti-Semitic stereotypes that have had pernicious consequences in the real world. “Barbarian” is etymologically I suppose a slur against anyone who doesn’t speak Greek, but so what?

  19. Jean-Pierre Metereau says:

    My Jewish brother-in-law once commented on my use of “heebie-jeebies”: “Please… Hebrew Jebrews, if you don’t mind.”

  20. Do you think “hysterical” is a word whose roots are recent enough for it to be worth getting offended by?
    My sense is that enough women are bothered (fairly reasonably) by the still transparent etymology that it’s worth avoiding when another word (e.g., “upset”) will do. As for “niggardly,” it’s a victim of phonetics—etymologically the protests against the word are silly, but since it actually contains the entirety of the racial slur that is the true object of the protest, it understandably caused offense once the word (hitherto safely hidden away in the back reaches of the English vocabulary) came to the attention of the wider public, and it too must be avoided (not a great loss, since there are many synonyms).
    “Please… Hebrew Jebrews, if you don’t mind.”
    I laughed!

  21. The Hebrew etymology is found in the Academie Francaise’s (terrible) online dictionary too, for what it’s worth. I left this comment at Tablet:
    If I may, brouhaha, schmouhaha. I hate to hear when anyone is hurt, but the vast majority of users of this word in English and French have never even heard of its supposedly anti-Semitic roots. If someone decides to be offended by “niggardly” — as has happened more than once despite the word’s Old Norse origins — that does not mean the word is offensive in itself. It means a small number of people have, through a mysterious process, come to be offended by it.
    For what it’s worth, this is the etymology in the French Academy’s dictionary:
    (1)BROUHAHA n. m. XVIe siècle, Brou, brou, brou, ha, ha ! Probablement altération de la formule hébraïque barukh habba, « béni soit celui qui vient (au nom du Seigneur) ».
    Bruit confus qui s’élève dans une assemblée nombreuse en signe d’approbation ou de désaccord. Un brouhaha admiratif, désapprobateur. Par ext. Le brouhaha de la rue, des gares, du stade, de la fête foraine. Il est impossible de s’entendre dans un tel brouhaha !
    “Probably an alteration of the Hebrew formula ‘baruch habba’, ‘blessed is he who comes [in the name of the Lord.]‘ A confused noise that arises in a numerous assembly as a sign of approbation or disagreement. An admiring brouhaha, disapproving. By extension, the brouhaha of the street, the stations, the stadiums, the fair. It is impossible to hear in such a brouhaha!”
    “Approbation”? “Admiring”? With no mention of use in slandering Jews at all, this seems to be merely a synonym for “clamour” and this is a — well, your chosen “kerfuffle” is a good one — over nothing. I would rather the tiny minority offended by “brouhaha” do a bit of research than that the great majority forswear an innocent word.

  22. Charles Perry says:

    This reminds me of an exclamation I have long puzzled over: hubba-hubba. It’s an expression of approval but in my youth it usually had a comic overtone of lust. “Girls in bikinis? Hubba-hubba!”
    Does it have anything to do with the Hebrew habba? I had tentatively connected it with a couple of Arabic words, mahabba (“love”) and marhaba (Egyptian pronunciation: “welcome,” which tourists or British soldiers would have heard often from importunate merchants in the souk).

  23. A shaded ha-ha is an accepted place to protect one’s brews from the fierce heat of the southern-English summer sun. Fights often break out when warm-beer lovers move the six packs into the sun.

  24. @J. W. Brewer: My grandmother (b. Ohio, 1886, very Protestant) used to say “Hocus pocus dominocus.” Hmm.

  25. John Emerson says:

    I remember hearing that abracadabra was an illiterate’s interpretations of the alphabet, and “spells” too. There’s an old word “gramerie” meaning magic and derived from “grammar”, as a form of secret knowledge presumably. One Provencal poem I’ve seen refers to birds and their unintelligible “latis” = Latin (chirping). I believe that there are other examples that I’ve forgotten.

  26. Back when hardly anyone knew how to read or write, some pretty basic knowledge was esoteric. Grammar was glamorous. You pretty much had to be a priest to be capable of clerical work.

  27. J.W. Brewer says:

    I am skeptical that the etymology of hysteria is “transparent” to any meaningful percentage of Anglophones outside the 0.01% or whatever who’ve actually studied Greek. Presumably if someone drew it to your attention with an “as in hysterectomy” it might then click (although the vowels come out totally different from hysteria, at least in AmEng). But who would gratuitously draw the etymology to anyone else’s attention unless they thought that people didn’t already have enough things to be offended about? (We don’t stop calling malaria malaria just because science has moved past the prior theory of causation embedded in the etymology, so the current actual meaning of hysteria is not inherently tainted by the etymology.) I don’t understand the point of catering to people’s sensitivities if they’re somehow derived from a factually accurate etymology but not if they’re derived from a bogus folk etymology which is nonetheless subjectively believed. The emotions of those taking offense are the same in both instances, and only a few eccentrics of the sort that run blogs like this one are invested in the superiority of accurate etymologies to interesting-sounding folk etymologies that conveniently reinforce people’s pre-existing political/social opinions.

  28. John Emerson says:

    As I said, hysteria is an obsolete and discredited medical diagnosis always applied to women. It’s basically a relic of a rather recent brand of sexist medicine and has been rejected as such. The folkish word is still normally mostly applied to women and when used with either sex, is almost always used as an insult (since it no longer is a medical term). There’s more to the objection than just the etymology.

  29. John Emerson says:

    Or to put it differently: you should use this word either in a context that you’re confident that no one will be offended, or else with the knowledge that you might offend someone, but you don’t care.
    I don’t think that you now can claim to be blindsided.

  30. Yeah, what John said. I am generally suspicious of too ready an enthusiasm for disregarding people’s “sensitivities.”

  31. J.W. Brewer says:

    But why are you disregarding Ms. Fetterman’s sensitivities? How are you choosing who you care about?

  32. Who knew that raising the politically correct hackles of the hysterical set could be such fun? Long live the screaming mimmies (and memmies)!

  33. J.W. Brewer says:

    Come to think of it, isn’t “hysterical” in the sense of “really really funny” overtaking the older sense of “overly emotional and not being coldbloodedly rational the way a stereotypical male would be in the circumstances”? “Hysteria” is a Def Leppard song, not a quack diagnosis some dead Viennese crackpot imposed on his female patients.

  34. “Overwrought” could be offensive to incompetent iron workers.

  35. I really don’t see how etymology is that important in deciding if a word is offensive or not. I’ve never heard hysterical used in a sexist way, and therefore I am not offended by it. I am uncomfortable saying “niggardly” because it contains the sound of the one word that was really taboo for me growing up. However, if somebody were to use it without trying to rile people up, I would understand that there was no actual racism contained in the word and it wouldn’t bother me at all. I have never heard “to jew someone down” in real life, but even that rather extreme example won’t bother me if I had good reason to believe the person using it wasn’t an anti-semite. I doubt even words with such transparent etymologies increase the level of actual discrimination in the world. I understand people can’t choose what they find offensive, and there’s nothing wrong with being accommodating, but personally I think I’ll use all the words I don’t mind and let others do the same, discouraging only actual discrimination and otherwise not interfering. Those with delicate sensitivities had best socialize with others with a similar mindset. In directly addressing them I’ll do my best to respect their wishes, but when addressing the crowd, I’ll consider only my own.

  36. What Hat said, including “What John [Emerson] said”. Also what John Brewer said about not in the Top Ten.
    I myself can’t evade thoughts of etymology and quack medicine when I run into the word “hysteria” — not that I think the risk of offending others is terribly high, but I don’t know how to handle the risk of offending myself.
    On another note: Rightly or wrongly, I blame the word “hysteria” for messing up both the spelling and the pronunciation of the word “wistaria”.

  37. Was it wi-stare-ia, before Freud came along? I used to go by Wysterious, on a gardening blog.

  38. I agree with J.W. Brewer. I have never met any American woman who took offense at “hysterical” or “hysteria”, or who cared about the etymology. In any case, since in America the word is probably used most often in the sense of “provoking uncontrollable laughter” (“that film was hysterical!”, “Louis C.K. had the whole audience in mass hysteria!”), whatever 19th century medical meaning the word used to have seems beside the point.

  39. The idea that hysterical behavior is caused by wigged-out wombs can be dismissed as diagnostic duh, along with its etymological after-effects. “Hysterical” is a useful short characterization of certain behavior that suggests nothing as to the causes. It’s certainly not restricted to women.
    “Overwrought” means about the same thing (apart from the pee-in-your-pants-laughing sense), but as JCass remarked that might offend iron workers. I sure don’t want to offend iron workers, I want to be their friend.

  40. I’m not blaming Freud. I’m just making up a folk-tale. It goes like this:
    - somebody named the vine Wistaria, after a person named Wistar
    - people then pronounced this name in a way that did not have much to do with how you say “Wistar” (however that is), because they had to give the second syllable a real vowel if they were going to stress it and the obvious vowel from the spelling was as in AIR
    - since the word wistaria rhymed very nicely with hysteria, it sometimes got (mis)spelled wisteria
    - now that it was spelled wisteria, it sometimes came to be pronounced with EER, like “mysterious”.
    Wysteria is a good name for a gardening blog.

  41. j. del col says:

    Freud discovered that men could be hysterical too. So what’s the problem? Will we cavil at ‘testimony’ next?

  42. Will we cavil at ‘testimony’ next?
    Never thought of it like that. “Testimony” = nut moola !

  43. I have never met any American woman who took offense at “hysterical” or “hysteria”, or who cared about the etymology.
    Well, I have, so I guess that makes a difference.

  44. Don’t forget ‘orchids’: the name comes from the Greek word for ‘testicles’. You’d think whoever named them would have been more impressed by the beautiful flowers than by the obscenely-shaped bulbs, but he (it must have been a he) obviously had his mind in the gutter.
    As I recall from teaching Etymology many years ago (I’m too lazy to look it up now), ‘sleazy’ comes from ‘Silesian’, and is a reflection on the poor quality of cloth exported from Silesia some centuries back. Should those with Silesian ancestry object to ‘sleazy’ as an ethnic slur? (I mean object to its use in general – anyone would object when its aimed at themselves.)
    One more: I was once with a group of Classicists touring Monticello when one of them looked at a fossil jawbone and said “So that’s why they call them mastodons!”. They’re named after the breast-shaped points on their teeth. There might conceivably be someone in America so prudish as to be offended by that.

  45. j. del col says:

    Indeed, we must make it clear that ‘orchiditis’ is not a horticultural problem.

  46. j. del col says:

    And dare we mention the Grand Tetons?

  47. Indeed, d. del col. Even if you have so many orchids you would gladly give some of them away, you do NOT want to volunteer for a bilateral orchidectomy.

  48. The real problem is people who take the all-or-nothing Manichean approach and either go around looking for things to be offended by or absolutely refuse to take anyone’s feelings into account.
    Hysteria by now is fine except maybe when a man tells a woman who is rightfully indignant about something to “quit getting so hysterical” or something. You have to take the context into consideration. If we let this get out of hand then we won’t be able to use the word “hysteresis” anymore either.
    Another data point pointing to a Hebrew origin is the fact that the French also have tohu-bohu, which comes from the Hebrew. Where did the French get so much exposure to Hebrew?
    As for hubba-hubba, I’ve been wondering for a while where humuna-humuna (if that’s how it’s spelled) came from. Anyone know?

  49. humuna-humuna
    I’ve never heard that, but there’s an old-fashioned jokey greeting in Hamburg: Hummel, Hummel !, to which one responds “Mors, Mors” meaning “eat my shorts”.

  50. humuna-humuna
    Also spelled homina-homina; you can hear the locus classicus 45 seconds into this clip, and a rather annoying looped version here. It seems to have been remembered in more recent pop culture.

  51. marc, it’s ‘homina homina’ and was originally something Ralph Kramden said in The Honeymooners when reduced to incoherence. A quick Google shows some people attributing it to cartoons but I don’t recall seeing it in any pre-Kramden cartoon.
    That I’m sure of. I’m less sure of my impression that it comes from ‘I’m gonna…I’m gonna…’ To the moon, Alice!

  52. John Emerson says:

    “Hey, Fifi! Parlez-vous humma-humma?” Cheech and Chong.

  53. people carry grudges against perfectly good words all the time
    I don’t carry any grudge against the perfectly good word panties.
     
    Re: hysterical. Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus (hystera). Obviously the adjective hysterical should be used with care sometimes.
     
    The most frequently cited origin of the word baragouin (babble, gibberish) is from Breton bara, bread, and gwin, wine. These two words were supposed to be uttered in the taverns of France by Bretons who couldn’t speak French. It should be found offensive by people from Brittany. But interestingly enough, other possible origins are also mentioned and one of them is… Hebrew: “espagnol barahunda ‘tumulte’ de l’hébreu bārūch habbă ‘béni soit celui qui vient au nom du Seigneur’” (Trésor de la langue française). If this is true, baragouin and baragouiner would be cognate with brouhaha.

  54. Hat:
    I have never met any American woman who took offense at “hysterical” or “hysteria”, or who cared about the etymology.
    Well, I have, so I guess that makes a difference.
    I have met women who take offense, but not because of the etymology. Rather because it’s a wastebasket diagnosis, or “diagnosis”, applied to women whose behavior the (male) speaker doesn’t like or doesn’t know how to respond to.
    Dr. Weevil:
    i>Sleasie, Slesie are archaic forms of Silesia ‘lawn (a cloth) from Silesia or in the same style’ , but the OED2 thinks this is unconnected with sleazy, and gives a useful 1696 quotation: “I shall now begin according to my promise to treat of Sleasie Lawns, it being a very useful Linnen here with us, it takes its name from a town called Slesia in Hamborough, and not for its wearing Sleasie, as a great many do imagine.”

  55. Oops. “It’s true that …”

  56. Well, I have, so I guess that makes a difference.
    Naturally. Just of curiosity, was that recently? Whether rightly or wrongly, getting outraged at “hysteria” strikes me as a 1970s consciousness raising effort, like “womyn” or “herstory” that probably has little traction with the younger generations.

  57. getting outraged at “hysteria” strikes me as a 1970s consciousness raising effort, like “womyn” or “herstory”
    And was itself rather hysterical, one could say. What’s interesting is that it did shake up a lot of consciousnesses, even if it didn’t raise them – similar to the gay pride and black pride movements.
    “Hysterical” behavior has always affected the behavior of those who have to deal with it, in that it draws attention to discontent. It is a theatrical technique, as contrasted with a discursive one. It’s bound to affect more people, since more people go to the movies than read dissertations on political science.
    Yet even discursive practices have changed, and have changed things, regardless of what you think about their “logical content”. I’m just now reading another excellent book on this subject by the sociologist Eva Illouz: Saving The Modern Soul.

  58. Whether rightly or wrongly, getting outraged at “hysteria” strikes me as a 1970s consciousness raising effort, like “womyn” or “herstory” that probably has little traction with the younger generations.
    My two cents, with context a given, “hysteria” still has a bit more traction than those other examples, because women are still stereotyped as hysterical. The etymology might be a point worth making for someone trying to tell the history of the subjugation of the fairer sex, but obviously, as others here have pointed out, etymology is not the crucial issue.

  59. I still have my doubts about panties. If I found a pair in the middle of my living-room floor (I might well) I’d say “Whose underwear is this?”, not “Whose panties are these?” It sounds to me like a line from a John Waters movie.

  60. Crown, I think Sig was saying he has no doubts about the provenance of the word “panties”. You, on the other hand, seem to have doubts about the provenance of the panties themselves. That’s another kettle of Reizwäsche.

  61. It’s always nice to learn a new word, especially for sexy underwear. I won’t go all neo-Whorfian over the fact that we don’t have a one-word equivalent in English, but I have to say that I am charmed by the thought that in German you cannot mention sexy underwear without also issuing a reminder that they will have to washed afterwards.

  62. To the uninitiated, the word could appear to mean “irritating underwear”, the kind that itches and scratches. As Christmas nighs there is usually a rash of Reizwäsche buying in Germany.

  63. J.W. Brewer says:

    Is it possible to go the other way and argue for a making-fun-of-Breton rather than making-fun-of-Hebrew etymology for brouhaha as well as baragouin? Avoiding giving offense to Bretons is an underdeveloped concern in U.S. society, although by way of analogy my younger daughter’s music teacher has been teaching the second graders to sing “Taffy was a Welshman / Taffy was a thief” as bowdlerized to “Taffy was a bad man etc.” I don’t think the etymology of “Taffy” as a characteristically Welsh male first name (= “Dave”) is transparent to them, so there’s no residual anti-Brythonism there. Someone could also develop a bogus folk etymology that the pejorative adjective “corny” originated as an anti-Cornish slur.

  64. j. del col says:

    Ah, “Taffy was a Welshman…” one of the many fine vignettes from Rocky and Bullwinkle.
    “Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!”

  65. j. del col says:

    BTW, the Bullwinkle’s Corner version of “Taffy” is on Youtube. Very funny.

  66. Just of curiosity, was that recently?
    No, recently I have had little contact with anyone outside of immediate wife-and-family circles (one of the effects of moving to the wilds of Western Mass). I knew women like that in NYC in the ’80s and ’90s, but of course you will say “Well, New York…” At any rate, I agree with jamessal’s comment from 3:25 AM.

  67. Nothing wrong with New York.

  68. “As I recall from teaching Etymology many years ago (I’m too lazy to look it up now), ‘sleazy’ comes from ‘Silesian’, and is a reflection on the poor quality of cloth exported from Silesia some centuries back. Should those with Silesian ancestry object to ‘sleazy’ as an ethnic slur? (I mean object to its use in general – anyone would object when its aimed at themselves.)”
    I don’t think that is right. I remember my grandmother referring to some cloth as have a a “slazy” texture and when my sister aksed why used that word, she said that was just what you called that texture; it was not some kind of slur on the cloth. And I do rember reading soemwhere a thousand years ago that Silesia was known for producing some kind of very sheer material, so that may be the connection. Over time the other pronunication may have attracted this other, derogatory menaing.

  69. Jim, you may have missed John Cowan’s similar comment above, so I’ll paste it in here:

    Sleasie, Slesie are archaic forms of Silesia ‘lawn (a cloth) from Silesia or in the same style’ , but the OED2 thinks this is unconnected with sleazy, and gives a useful 1696 quotation: “I shall now begin according to my promise to treat of Sleasie Lawns, it being a very useful Linnen here with us, it takes its name from a town called Slesia in Hamborough, and not for its wearing Sleasie, as a great many do imagine.”

  70. marie-lucie says:

    I think that “brouhaha” is (or was) used a lot more in French than in English. It always seeme funny to me when I hear an English speaker say “brew-hah-hah” (very self-consciously it seems).
    I had no idea of the origin of this word and find the suggestion of antisemitism in the modern word quite strange. And I don’t think that many people link the modern meanings of “hysterical” with “hysteria” (not a common word nowadays) or “hysterectomy”. The current contexts of use of these words are too different.

  71. I think that “brouhaha” is (or was) used a lot more in French than in English. It always seeme funny to me when I hear an English speaker say “brew-hah-hah” (very self-consciously it seems).
    Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!

  72. French ha-ha > English ha-ha. In this case the ha-ha is the lake, apparently.

  73. You’re joking, I think…A lake is a lake, and a ha-ha is a ha-ha. The ha-ha is the lake is like saying the apple is the orange.
    French ha-ha > English ha-ha.
    Although I think I remember something about ha-ha being a name for a garden surprise, and coming originally from France, don’t be deceived about what a ha-ha is, John. As far as I know, the French don’t have any ha-has except the 17C English ha-ha. In spite of the ha-ha pictures they’ve taken from the English version, that French Wikipedia article is complete rubbish – as, after the first sentence, is the jardin anglais article it links to. Not that they’re any more dumb & misleading than many of the English Wikipedia architectural-history articles (though the quality there has recently improved in places).

  74. The wiki article about the town in Quebec says
    The commission de toponymie asserts that the parish’s name refers to nearby Lake Témiscouata, the sense of haha here being an archaic French word for an unexpected obstacle or abruptly ending path,[2] see ha-ha.

  75. Yes, I don’t think John was defining the word, just saying what it appeared to refer to in this rather odd case.

  76. When I learned the word ha-ha in my survey of English Lit. course in 1962-63, I was told that it was not stressed equally on the two syllables, but only on the last, because its origin was in shocked surprise.

  77. Some would say ah-hah! A eureka moment.
    Imaagine walking away from the manor-house towards a bucolic scene, and almost falling off this invisible fence.

  78. but only on the last, because its origin was in French.

  79. haha here being an archaic French word for an unexpected obstacle
    I suppose if it had been invented in England we’d be calling it the Holy Moses.

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