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I understand that the phrase and how is an informal way of expressing strong agreement, but how would one really parse the phrase? Would the etymology of it provide any clues?

For example:

"This is the best cupcake I've ever had!" exclaimed person A.

"And how!" replied person B.

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    "You can say that again!" – Hot Licks Apr 28 '15 at 3:22
  • Right. Like I said, I get the meaning well enough.. I'm just not sure what role the words play in the phrase. – ebernard Apr 28 '15 at 3:27
  • It means "And in such a manner!" as in, "The Yankees beat the Mets last night" / "And HOW!" (e.g. maybe it was a complete shutout, or a no-hitter, or a last minute clinch, etc) – Dan Bron Apr 28 '15 at 14:47
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I'm reading it as "And to what an extent!"

Dictionary of Idioms - Page 85 Martin H Manser - 2006

And how! Very much so: used to express strong agreement with what has just been said, but sometimes also used to express the opposite of this: > 'Goldie's beautiful, isn't she?' 'And how!'

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    @LittleEva A glass of fizz to you! – Marius Hancu Apr 28 '15 at 4:07
  • Accepted partially for succinctness and partially for "to what an extent". – ebernard Apr 29 '15 at 4:01
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According to J. E. Lighter, The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang (1994), the phrase has an interesting past:

and how interj[ection] {trans[lation] of G[erman] und wie!; not fr[om] Yid[dish], as sometimes thought} emphatically so; yes, indeed. {This phr[ase] suddenly gained wide currency in the 1920's. No citations are known between 1865 and 1926.}

[First three citations:] 1865 in A[merican] S[peech] (Dec. 1933) 80: And how? as the Germans say (Americanicé—"you'd better believe it!") 1926 Variety (Apr. 7) 23: "Kongo" is a melodrama—and how! 1928 McEvoy Show Girl 33: Are you mixed up in this? ...And how.

Robert Hendrickson, The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, revised edition (1997) has this entry for the phrase:

and how! Indicating "intensive emphasis of what someone else has just said," and how! is a long-popular catchphrase first recorded in 1924. The Americanism possibly derived from the German und wie! or the Italian e come!, meaning the same thing, and once very common among Americans of German and Italian extraction, respectively.

Unfortunately, Hendrickson doesn't identify the 1924 occurrence. A Google Books search for "and how" across the years 1921–1926 yields no matches for the phrase in the relevant sense, corroborating the main thrust of Lighter's observation above.

If the phrase really is a direct translation from a German or Italian phrase, the quest for an explanation may stop there. If it is an Americanism, perhaps it adopts the same semi-sensical approach to meaning as (for example) the later expression "what it is!"

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