Sunday, August 19, 2012

"Huzzah" for English!

Faneuil Hall and Samual Adams in Quicney Market, Boston (7/27/12).
During the past few summers, my wife and I (along with any combination of our two sons) have been fortunate enough to visit a number of historical sites. Destinations have ranged from "go to" stops such as Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia and the Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, Nebraska, all the way to the less frequented sites such as Deadwood, South Dakota. Often we'll stop along the way to other places to check out whatever Americana there is to see. While our destination may not be any specific historical site, we'll often try find a way to mix in some U.S. History. This past summer, on our college visit to Harvard for my stepson, we naturally took time to check-in on the sites in historic Boston, Massachusetts.

Purchased at Faneuil Hall.
While in Boston, we made the standard stop to the most touristy of all sites, Quincey Market. (Having been on field trips with middle schoolers to Boston, it is among the most requested sites to visit, not for the history, but for the shopping.) Part of the Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall, has served as a marketplace and a meeting hall since 1742, and has also been the location of many inspirational speeches by significant figures in American history such as Samuel Adams, whose statue outside the Hall is seen in the picture above.

At one end of the Market, not long after exiting "The T", we stopped to look around the gift kiosk inside the Faneuil Hall. It was there that I found the small button exclaiming "Huzzah!" (left). This got me thinking...

Having employed the interjection on occasion during class, I know the blank stares of students who have no idea what you've said, so I purchased the button as a conversation starter around the changeable nature of the English language. A point further reinforced this past summer with the announcement of addition of new words to Webster's Dictionary  (like "f-bomb" and "sexting") to Webster's Dictionary, it is extremely valuable for students to recognize the at our language is continually evolving around us.

This is especially true as many of these changes, including those not included in any "respectable" dictionary, are the result of their use by the youth culture, though not many students use other new additions like "obesogenic" and "flexitarian," so there remains a role for we older cats in developing language, too. (Be prepared: It's not a stretch to project the future inclusion texting and online jargon into more common usage in the not-too-distant future.)

For those of you, like I, looking to bring an oldie-but-goody back, I invite you to continue using "huzzah." Just because a term has fallen out of common usage doesn't mean it can't be prime fro a comeback, just be sure to use it correctly let it return with a different connotation. Our friends at Wikipedia (with a touch of phonetics) can define it more expediently than I:
huzzah ([huz·zah] also [h-zä])is "an archaic English interjection of joy or approbation. According to the Oxford English Dictionary it is 'apparently a mere exclamation' ...used to express joy, encouragement, or triumph. Whatever its origins, it has seen occasional literary use since at least the time of Shakespeare."
Historically , "huzzahs" were given before a bayonet charge, as a way of building morale and intimidating the enemy. The interjection can still be heard in a more modern context (tongue in cheek) at regatta's by  rowing crews to celebrate victories with a chant of "hip hip huzzah" or (where most folks, including my students) have experienced it, at Renaissance Festivals.

Huzzah for English, and for school starting soon, too!

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