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Which one is it really: hear hear or here here? Where does the saying really come from?

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It's "hear, hear", as in you agree with it so much that you want everybody else within earshot to hear it. –  user730 Dec 13 '10 at 4:24
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It's "Here, here" if you're calling a dog, say. –  ShreevatsaR Dec 13 '10 at 9:15
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Tolkien's Bilbo Baggins uses "Hear, hear!" in The Hobbit. That decides it for me. –  user31783 Dec 4 '12 at 19:30
    
Can you add exmpales where the expression is used, @glenneroo please? –  xpt Apr 11 at 1:18
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5 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It's "Hear! Hear!" which comes from "Hear him! Hear him!"

"Hear him! Hear him!"

"Hear him! Hear him!" was referred to in Debates in Parliament in 1688, and from the context it's clear it was a commonly heard phrase at the time.

Sir Edward Seymour.] I see Gentlemen speak here under great disadvantages. If they are not free in this Convention, what shall we do in Parliament ? When Gentlemen speak with Reflections, and cry, " Hear him, hear him," they cannot speak with freedom. I speak not this to the Chair (the Speaker) who keeps Order well, but to what passed at the Committee.

Seymour continues, and is followed by:

Sir Henry Capel.] The Chair has taken care of Order' and I have seen no disorder to-day. When Seymour was in the Chair, I have heard "Hear him, hear him," often said in the House.

"Hear! Hear!"

A interesting non-parliamentary use of "hear, hear" can be found in a 1770 A Letter to Lord Mansfield. A North Briton Extraordinary:

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Note the parenthetic interjections to the quoted text:

(do you hear my Lord?) ... (hear, hear!) ... (do, for God's sake, my Lord, hear, recall your wandering thoughts, this is only a history) ... (once more hear, and I have done)

Originally from 1772 is what looks to be a satire on parliament in The Batchelor: or Speculations of Jeoffry Wagstaffe, Esq, Volume 3 that shows a transitional "hear, hear him":

Omnes.] Hear, hear him ; well spoke, no governor, no minister, no administration : long life to Will Spitfire, Doctor Bolus, Lord Babeltongue, and Dir Ed-w-d N-n-m.

Finally, in 1777 is an actual transcription of "Hear! Hear!" in The Parliamentary register: or, History of the Proceedings and Debates of the House of Commons:

The Governor took notice of the scandalous means made use of to vilify Lord Pigot, and depreciate his character through the channel of the news-papers. [Here a loud cry of Hear! Hear!] In particular, respecting the article of presents. It is true, his Lordship did receive a few trifling presents ; he wished he had not. They consisted of a cow, an elephant, two mares, and a gold tea service, to the amount of 500l. which he presented to his daughter, then lately married.

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Each phrase is likely much older than these: shouted exclamations and agreements aren't often recorded in the parliamentary record. And above, Capel said he often heard it when Seymour was Speaker of the House, which was between 1673 and 1679. –  Hugo Mar 26 '12 at 18:55
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I think we can dismiss the biblical claims to origin.

If we want to be specific to the phrase, then we can't find either "hear, hear" or "hear him, hear him", in any of the early bible translations, though we can certainly find hear in the imperative, it is not the same phrase. It also requests that you listen to the speech it itself is reporting, rather than to another person who is currently speaking.

If we're going to allow a bare hear, used to prefix one's own speech or report of speech to count, then we might as well allow Hwæt!, the first word in Beowulf to count, giving it a date of between the 8th and 11th century, depending on who you believe on that matter.

As an expression, we're left with late 17th Century use in the British Houses of Parliament.

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"Hear hear" is found in the (Hebrew) Old Testament, 2 Sam. 20:16. It is written in the imperative 2nd person plural, and the accentuation shows the Masoretes believed they formed one phrase, which translates into English with a following third imperative to act as: "Hear! Hear! speak please to . . ." The King James (1611 edition) records it as "Heare, Heare." While the presence of "Hear, Hear," in this context does not equate to it being the origin of the saying, it does open the strong possibility that the phrase predated the 17th century (or at least, 1612 by one year). –  user62235 Jan 17 at 2:40
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It's "hear, hear". Both Wikipedia and phrases.org.uk cite its origin as the UK Parliament. From the former:

It was originally an imperative for directing attention to speakers, and has since been used, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, as "the regular form of cheering in the House of Commons", with many purposes depending on the intonation of its user. Its use in Parliament is linked to the fact that applause is normally (though not always) forbidden in the chambers of the House of Commons and House of Lords.

The phrase "hear him, hear him!" was used in Parliament since the late 17th century, and had been reduced to "hear!" or "hear, hear!" by the late 18th century. The verb hear had earlier been used in the King James Bible as a command for others to listen.

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Ah, nice to see a reference confirming my otherwise uninformed interpretation. :D –  user730 Dec 13 '10 at 13:36
    
That last sentence about being used earlier in the Bible interests me. So the origins are possibly earlier... something to do with InSane's answer maybe? –  glenneroo Dec 13 '10 at 18:38
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Related to the 2nd part of the question - as to where does hear hear derive from

I think its origins are from the phrase

Hear ye the word of the Lord

from the Bible.

This phrase is used to conjunction with

Thus saith the Lord

usually followed by a proclamation of some kind.

This way of drawing attention of the listeners to what was about to be said was probably then popularized further by the practice of town criers (those chaps with scrolls and bells in england and maybe other places as well) who followed the same practice of drawing attention to them before their official (mostly king / government related proclamations) with the similar cry of

Hear Ye Hear Ye

Over the years, especially with "old English" words like "Ye" no longer being used, this has probably been shortened to "Hear Hear"

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Oh come on. Surely it's InSane to claim that "Hear" or "Hear Ye" entered English from as late as a 17th-century translation. :-) –  ShreevatsaR Dec 13 '10 at 8:51
    
:-) actually what i am saying is that it started with the bible and changed over the centuries to its more recognizable current form –  InSane Dec 13 '10 at 8:59
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Absolutely no idea whether this is true, but it's certainly plausible. –  CJM Dec 13 '10 at 9:57
    
Most enchanting tale so far ;) I just wonder about it's accuracy... :/ –  glenneroo Dec 13 '10 at 18:31
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The phrase is properly "Hear, hear", since you want everyone to hear what's being said.

Nonetheless, the eggcorn "Here, here" is so common that it may actually be eclipsing the original version.

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+1 for introducing me to the word 'eggcorn'. –  Jonathan Leffler Dec 13 '10 at 5:24
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+1 Just to add..there's similarly also "There, There" that readers of Catch-22 will be familiar with though it is not a widely known phrase.. –  InSane Dec 13 '10 at 6:57
    
@InSane: Do tell more? :) –  glenneroo Dec 13 '10 at 18:33
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@glenneroo - "There, there," Yossarian said, because he did not know what else to say. "There, there." - Its first used in Snowden's death scene in the book and mostly conveys the helpnessness of Yossarian to do anything about Snowden lying there dying in front of him... –  InSane Dec 14 '10 at 2:01
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@InSane "There, there" is an old expression of comfort, often used toward children. Heller's use has Yossarian say something one would normally say to a child with a scraped knee, but certainly it would be a widely known phrase, at least in some places. –  Jon Hanna Feb 22 '13 at 11:56
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protected by RegDwigнt Dec 4 '12 at 22:01

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