This AskMetaFilter question begins:

A few months ago, my wife posted on her a blog an article that appeared in the September issue of Vogue. It’s about Ashley Javier, an exclusive New York hair stylist, whose penthouse shop is in a “rough part of Manhattan”:
When he arrived on Twenty-eighth Street, “This place was harrogatha! Harrogatha!”
Neither one of us knows the word, and my wife included in her blog entry a request for a definition. No one has come forward, and I’m beginning to go crazy.

A fair amount of pointless guessing followed; finally, someone contacted Mr. Javier and posted the result:

When Ashley moved to NYC 15 years ago, he befriended Paul Rutherford of Frankie Goes to Hollywood fame.
So harrogatha (pronounced huh-RAH-gutha) is a term that he picked up from Paul and it means that something is so horrible, so horrendous, so bad that it’s practically infectious.
Ashley’s not sure where Paul picked it up, or if he made it up.

So there you have it. You can simply admire the pluck and resourcefulness of the AskMeFi crew (and raise an eyebrow at the fecklessness of the Vogue reporter, who didn’t bother to explain the word), or you can incorporate this silly but memorable vocable into your own usage and try to get it into the next edition of your favorite dictionary.


  1. Sounds very much like the Castilian pronunciation of the name of the city we call Saragossa. But that’s not such a bad place, that city, so maybe this isn’t the ultimate source.

  2. Hey, you linguistics squares, in rock language “Harra” means “utter undescribable and immense horror”–something so miserable words can’t describe it. “It’s a harra, man, a fucking harra.”
    “Gotha” means “the best fucking town in the world”
    therefore, using Rock ‘n’ Roll logic, a Harragotha is an “immense horror in the middle of the best fucking town in the world”–so the neighborhood of 28th Street in Manhattan (Gotham) at the time this scribe was penciling his or her piece was a horror in the middle of Gotham (a Harragotha), which is New York City. That neighborhood today is in the middle the most desirable area of Manhattan now–50-story luxury buildings are going up like mushrooms growing wildly in a caveful of bat manure–it is no longer a harragotha. New York City is no longer Gotham either. Pretty thorough rock definitions can be found at the Urban Dictionary Website, which is easily Googled–
    Ur fiend,

  3. Obviously a fan of P G Wodehouse has been misheard talking of Aunt Agatha.

  4. There are no more rough parts of Manhattan, unless you consider Starbucks a rough place. In which case, I sympathize.

  5. Harrogate is a genteel Yorkshire spa town, now almost a suburb of Leeds, Bradford and York. It was long ago adopted by the upwardly-mobile.
    Battersea and Clapham (pronounced roughly just like they are spelled) were two decidedly run-down bits of London, south of the River Thames, long ago adopted by the upwardly-mobile, and gentrified over the past few decades.
    It became, for a time. ‘smart’ to refer to
    Batter-sea as Bat-erzie
    Clap-am as Cla’am.
    Harrogate – huh-RAH-gutha ?

Speak Your Mind