Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

"What ho!" - this strange form of greeting is used all the time by Bertie Wooster, a character of well-known "Jeeves and Wooster" stories by P. G. Wodehouse.

Bertie Wooster: Oh, what ho, Sir Watkyn!

Sir Watkyn Bassett: Kindly do not address me in that familiar way, Wooster. I happen to know that once again you've yielded to the awful temptation to steal a policeman's helmet! .....

Bertie Wooster: Aunt Dahlia! What ho, old blood relation!

Aunt Dahlia: [affectionately] Hello, Bertie, revolting young blot.

What does "ho" mean in such expressions? Is it a word reduction or an idiom?

share|improve this question
1  
There's also "Right-ho" he uses. One of the books is titled "Right-ho, Jeeves!". –  Mechanical snail Sep 26 '12 at 2:02
    
Some of these unfathomable expressions are said to have been those of King George ll, a Hanoverian who could not speak English well. He would use silly-sounding phrases like 'Hey-what'. Sycophants at court would imitate him, and that is how the expressions came into being. I am not sure if 'what-ho' is one of them, or even if it was George ll. Anyway, it was one of the Georges. –  WS2 Jan 7 at 18:59
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

According to this article, "what ho" is derived from "hwaet", which is the first word of Beowulf and is a sign of greeting. I don't think "ho" has a meaning by itself.

share|improve this answer
1  
It is just and interjection used as a call to attract attention or as an exclamation of surprise or delight. –  American Luke Aug 4 '12 at 22:12
1  
Yes, more or less equivalent to Wassup? –  jwpat7 Aug 4 '12 at 22:29
add comment

It's a Shakespearean reference. Try googling "what ho Othello" or "what ho apothecary".

I think it's probably intended to allude to Bertie Wooster's (presumably expensive) education and illustrate his flippant nature.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.