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I was reading a Harry Potter book the other day and one of the characters, Nymphadora Tonks, greets Harry by saying "Wotcher, Harry".

What is "Wotcher"?

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Theory 1: It's a contraction of "what are you up to" or "what are you doing". Basically, the last part (up to/doing) is completely dropped, and the rest is smushed together.

Theory 2: it's short for "what cheer", purportedly 17th century slang for "what's up".

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?defid=1058973&term=wotcher


EDIT:

The MSN Encarta dictionary and freedictionary.com support Martha's second theory that wotcher is contraction of "what cheer". It is a slang (U.K.) that means the same as hello. It should be noted that it is not clear whether the slang is still in use anywhere in the U.K.

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  • 18
    Links to Urban dictionary make me sad.
    – Noldorin
    Nov 8 '10 at 22:26
  • 1
    Sorry, Noldorin, it's what I could find that was succinct and to the point. In this case, it even tends to agree with the more, um, reputable sources.
    – Marthaª
    Nov 8 '10 at 22:31
  • @Bruno Rothgiesser, thanks for the additional information in the edit.
    – Marthaª
    Nov 9 '10 at 14:42
  • Small note, I think this is used in Australia as well as the UK.
    – ZoFreX
    Sep 23 '14 at 15:22
  • "...it is not clear whether the slang is still in use anywhere in the U.K." Anecdotal I know, but I remember my uncle saying this about 20 years ago. Further, the character Andy (Mackenzie Crook) from the recent BBC series Detectorists uses the greeting on at least 2 occasions, one being in S02E02 around the 19:30 mark. So it does seem to remain in use, though from my experience not particularly common. Mar 3 '18 at 12:31
14

Wotcher:

Meaning

A colloquial greeting.

Origin

'Wotcher' is so strongly associated with the south of England, and especially London, that it is often assumed to be Cockney Rhyming Slang. Some commentators have attempted to find tortured rhymes for the extended 'wotcher cock' slang form - 'what's your clock?', 'watch your back' etc. In fact, 'wotcher' long predates CRS and is a contraction of the earlier greeting phrase 'what cheer?'. In that form, it became part of the everyday English language in the early Middle Ages.

Please read the related phrases.org.uk page for more info.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Jan 24 at 23:39
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As reported by others, "wotcher" (or, as I've seen elsewhere, "watcha") is a greeting that has been used for a long time in the UK. It is certainly still in use in North Kent, though in a rather more middle-class accent than in the East End.

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Two observations:

  1. The very first word of the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and

  2. I distinctly remember when the Brit soap opera "Eastenders" was introduced in the US, the host of the show explained what the term meant, because it was used in the show's dialog and American audiences needed to be educated about it. As an aside, British readers might be amused to know that PBS, which aired the series in America, was torn about whether to run the show with subtitles, as the East End accents (and some words like Nick Cotton's use of "blancmange") were difficult for Americans to process.

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