When cutting the cake at a Jewish birthday party, or other celebrations when a cheer is called for, 'Hip Hip, Hooray!' is never used but rather the Hebrew 'Heyach!' 'Heydad!'.

It seems to be a great faux pas to shout 'Hip Hip, Hooray!' Why is this?

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    I've never been to a birthday party of any sort (Jewish or non-) where "Hip, Hip Hooray" is used because it is so antiquated. But to suggest that it is "never" used is perhaps overstating the case. You mean you've also never heard it? Perhaps also because it is just antiquated in English? – Curiouser Jul 19 '12 at 15:14
  • I have certainly heard it at birthday parties before. If it's antiquated then South Africa just hasn't noticed. :-) The more religious the family or the crowd the less chance of it being said. – Michael Sandler Jul 20 '12 at 6:24

According to this article the cheer has anti-semitic origins. It developed from a war-cry meaning “Jerusalem is fallen” - in Latin Hieroslyma est perdita .

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    that just sounds unlikely... – Charles Koppelman Jul 19 '12 at 18:22
  • Wikipedia agrees with you: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_hip_hooray and has references to two other sources that say that. – Ariel Jul 19 '12 at 18:55
  • Also see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hep_hep_riots which claims the acronym thing is wrong. But maybe Hip sounds too much like Hep, acronym or not. – Ariel Jul 19 '12 at 18:57
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    @Ariel. I do not find that proposed etymology even remotely plausible. I suppose it could be asked on Linguistics or EL&U. – TRiG Dec 4 '12 at 20:40

See the (fanciful) discussion here: http://onthemainline.blogspot.com/2009/12/vilna-gaon.html

where it is suggested that the work HEP is an acronym for Haman, Amalek, Pharaoh which was said by the Jews against their foes in order to show how all previous enemies had all been defeated and so too would they. Thus it would seem to be a very appropriate Jewish slogan after all.

Indeed, it was likely used by the Jews in Prussia. The OED notes that "According to Moriz Heyne in Grimm, hurrah was the battle-cry of the Prussian soldiers in the War of Liberation (1812-13), and has since been a favourite cry of soldiers and sailors, and of exultation." And as Amos Elon notes in "The Pity of it All", the Jews were largely on the Prussian side in the War of Liberation, and thus were probably shouting hurrah (from where we get hurray) quite a bit.

  • Are you referencing the Oxford English Dictionary, or some other OED? Since this appears to be a question about etymology, Oxford would certainly be a good source to look at. – TRiG Sep 29 '14 at 15:46

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