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I heard this tally ho in a youtube video (British). I also heard it in the movies "Jack the Giant Slayer", and "Spiderman 1". I understand it's some kind of expression or exclamation or idiom to say in certain circumstances.

I've googled for this, I just found that it is used to say a huntsman's cry to the hounds on sighting a fox, and a cry of tally ho. First, I don't get it, and second I can't find a connection between that "tally ho" and the videos I heard it from.

  • The etymology is not particularly clear, but you could have learned as much as I have by googling 'tally ho" and "etymology." It seems to have come from a French word for alerting the dogs, 'taïaut.' – Michael Owen Sartin Jan 21 '14 at 2:15
  • @MichaelOwenSartin: To add to the wikipedia article "tally-ho" comes French taïaut or tayaut evolved from Middle French ta-ho formed from two onomatopÅ“ic words: ta that was the cry to stimulate the animals and ho a rallying cry. It was used in foxhunting to signal the beast, and also in classical French to expose someone to public condemnation. – None Jan 21 '14 at 6:53
  • @Laure I assumed the ho part was for over there. – IQAndreas Jan 21 '14 at 9:07
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    @IQAndreas: Old French also had ho used to call attention so we can choose whichever we like I suppose. – None Jan 21 '14 at 10:26
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Although (as you brought out) it may have bore a different meaning in the past, nowadays it is (over)used in movies for when people are about to jump off a high structure or cliff, and sometimes even for jumping into the fray or a dangerous situation.

It is used pretty much like other exclamations such as Geronimo! or Away we go!

As a side note: I'm not sure if people actually use the phrase in real life, or if it's just a movie trope, such as the iconic Let's get out of here! or I'm getting a bad feeling about this.

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  • I can't imagine either Bruce Willis or Schwarzenegger saying "tally ho!" :) It sounds too posh and too British. – Mari-Lou A Jan 21 '14 at 7:56
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    @Mari-LouA Well, I could imagine Bruce Willis saying Tally-ho, m----rf----r!; tally-ho is more exotic than yippee-ki-yay but not any more ridiculous. – choster Jan 21 '14 at 8:00
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    @choster I watched the Spiderman clip, and the protagonist is scared stiff before he launches himself in mid air. Peter Parker stutters the words as a form of encouragement. Could very well be that movie fans adopted this "cry" whenever faced with a life or death situation. But for me, "tally ho" will always evoke images of aristocratic huntsmen dressed in red blazers, and white jodhpurs riding across the British countryside while hunting a terrified small red fox. – Mari-Lou A Jan 21 '14 at 8:14
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    @Mari-LouA +1, I can't really think "tally ho" without following it with "old chap". – Jason C Mar 10 '14 at 16:14
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I think of the phrase's use being spoken to a comrade, usually with nervous bravado. Particularly when fixing to go into a tense or hazardous situation like diving in pursuit of an enemy aircraft; or chasing something that could turn on you quickly with dire results.

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In the movie The Great Escape, Allied British forces escaped a Nazi prison camp. Upon their escape, they were on a train and some we're being approached by crewman aboard the train apparently checking their identification. One man issued a warning in a whisper to a few of the British men on board, saying "Tally ho" as a warning to be ready as someone was about to approach them. Hence the analogy of the hounds being warned that there is a fox (potential danger) in the midst.

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