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Theater reviews of newspapers are one of very valuable sources for me to fish for novel and intriguing expressions to foreign English learner like me.

Recently, I found two words quite strange to me in New York Times review of the new Broadway musical, "Catch Me if You Can," titled "Scamming as Fast as He Can." One is hot diggity, the other is corkscrew twists. Then I have the following two questions:

  1. I found the definition of hot diggity as an interjection expressing extra excitement or anticipation, and it came from the title of an American popular song written by Al Hoffman and Dick Manning in Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary.

How popular hot diggity is in day-to-day usage? What does it mean here? Is it something like "Oh my goodness!"? I suspect I can find this word in English language text book in school. Can I use it in formal conversation or in writing as quoted in the following text?

It is about scamming. Its central relationship is between two adversarial but bromantically bonded men. And, hot diggity, it is set in the booze-guzzling, chain-smoking, babe-chasing 1960s, an era that with the success of “Mad Men” on television has become Broadway’s decade du jour.

  1. I don’t understand the meaning of corkscrew twists in the following line of the same article. Can you explain me what it means?

Though the real-life story that inspired this show is full of elaborate deceptions and corkscrew twists, you will never at any point be confused by its theatrical incarnation.

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This is really two questions. –  nohat Apr 11 '11 at 22:29
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@nohat.Yes, this is two questions derived from a single source – the press review of ¬"Catch Me if You Can." I just thought it would be time-and-space-saving to place these two questions together than separating questions, and thought it won’t bother answerers too much in answering both questions a time. –  Yoichi Oishi Apr 12 '11 at 7:41
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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Suitable replacements for "hot diggity" would be:

  • gee whiz!
  • gee willikers!
  • oh boy!
  • oh my!
  • hallelujah!

The meaning is more of a retro way to express excitement or gleeful expectation. "Oh my goodness!" is similar but tends to be more of an expression of surprise than excitement.

The phrase and its ilk are not often used unless expressing excitement towards something from the era when the phrase was more common. In this case, the '60s.


"Corkscrew twists" is interesting because of "corkscrew" which refers to anything extremely curvy or twisted. A loose definition could be "something that consistently and constantly turns, twists or weaves." It is used to describe a great many, many things and can mean something that figuratively or literally twists:

This road is a corkscrew.

The dog's path corkscrewed across the lawn.

My face corkscrewed in agony.

A story's twists are its plot twists and a play that corkscrews would be one that twists a lot. The specific meaning of the quoted phrase is that the inspiring source material has a great many plot twists but the play itself is not confusing or hard to follow — the audience will not be left wondering what just happened.

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"Hot diggity" is an expression from the 1950s. People use it today slightly more often than they use "23 skiddoo" (an expression from the 1920s). The reviewer is using it ironically or archly; if he were speaking to you he would probably arch his eyebrows and/or theatrically change his tone of voice to indicate an anachronism.

"Corkscrew twists" refers to plot twists. A corkscrew is a tool for pulling the cork from a bottle, and has a series of twists in it. When used figuratively to refer to a plot, it means the twists leave you spinning.

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...which means that it'd be weird to use 'hot diggity' or (where I think it came from 'hot diggity dog' which probably came from 'hot dog' which may be a euphemism of 'hot damn', meaning 'this is a big deal' or 'a special thing'. As to 'corkscrew twist', it is not a special phrase or single dictionary entry, those two words together. But rather 'twists' that are especially many and tight (in the metaphor) like a corkscrew. –  Mitch Apr 11 '11 at 20:40
    
I believe "hot damn" itself is a modification / euphemism for "God damn"; there are hundreds of similar euphemisms ("dad blast", "dag nab" or "dag nabbit", etc.) –  MT_Head May 16 '11 at 22:34
    
I'd also add that a corkscrew has tight, continuous twists. A fighter jet pilot might make corkscrew twists in an attempt to shake off a trailing fighter. –  Wayne May 24 '11 at 18:35
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How popular hot diggity is in day-to-day usage?

It's not at all popular in day-to-day usage. It's an antiquated saying, as Robusto and MrHen have noted. It's something you might expect to hear in an old black and white movie or from an excited elderly person, but it would rarely, if ever, come up in casual conversation of young or middle-aged persons.

A variant to hot diggity is hot diggity dog.

Etymology Online doesn't have any entry on hot diggity but I did find this entry on Wikipedia on the song Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom):

"Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom)" is an American popular song written by Al Hoffman and Dick Manning. Published in 1956, it was recorded by Perry Como and went to #1 on the Billboard pop music chart later that year. ... The phrase "hot diggity dog!" dates to at least 1928, when Al Jolson was recorded saying "Hot diggity dog! Hot kitty! Hot pussycat! Didn't I tell you you'd love it?" after a performance of the tune "There's A Rainbow Around My Shoulder".

Hot diggity dog is also a not uncommon name of hot dog restaurants around the United States.

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