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My father just used an interesting phrase: hello the fire. He said it was a way to let me know he was coming without startling me. I've never heard this phrase, and I can't find anything about it online. He said he remembers it having to do with the Old West, but that was all he could recall.

What is the origin and meaning of this phrase?

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I believe this is a variant of "hello the camp", which is used as your father describes: when you're about to enter someone's encampment, as a kind of warning/greeting in lieu of knocking on the nonexistent door. (There's an elided "to" in there: the full/grammatical form would be "hello to the camp".)

I imagine "hello the fire" could be used if there isn't an encampment to speak of, just a fire with guys sitting around it.

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  • That confirmed the meaning for me; I'd still like to know the origin, and perhaps why the "to" was dropped. – Brendon Nov 10 '11 at 2:19
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    Most of these are effectively Hello, the [camp]fire. It's hardly any more mysterious than Hello, Mr Smith, assuming you're happy to understand "the fire" as meaning "the people around the fire". – FumbleFingers Nov 10 '11 at 14:06
  • +1 Books certainly support the explanation. It is approx order of magnitude less frequent compared to camp. – Unreason Nov 10 '11 at 15:59
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This seems to be a quote from 19th century American entertainer Dan Rice. Beyond that I can find nothing as to the source or context of the quote.

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