"Hip" in Football: Precursor to "Hut"?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Jan 14 17:38:44 UTC 2005

At 1:28 AM -0500 1/14/05, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>A couple of weeks ago Barry Popik inquired about the origin of the
>quarterback's interjection "hut".  I recently came across David Feldman's
>book of "Imponderables", _When Did Wild Poodles Roam the Earth?_, in which
>he discusses the question.  Feldman's sources on football history all
>agree that the quarterback's "hut" is modeled on the Army drill sergeant's
>marching cadence of "hut 2-3-4".  That had been my guess.
>One of the football historians also sent the following tidbit to Feldman,
>suggesting that the preferred interjection was once "hip":

thereby demonstrating the seminal role of Wolof in the evolution of football...

>_Spalding's How to Play Football_, 1921
>When shift formations are tried, the quarter-back should give his signal
>when the men are in their original places. Then after calling the signal
>[he] can use the word "hip" for the first shift and then repeat for the
>players to take up their new positions on the line of scrimmage.
>This seems a bit different from the use of "hut" since the '50s, which
>doesn't necessarily signal a shift of the offensive line.  The quarterback
>may signal for the center to snap the ball on the first, second, or third
>"hut" without any shift being called.  But perhaps the origins of the
>modern "hut" can be traced to this signal for a shift, most often
>associated with Knute Rockne's teams at Notre Dame.  Some cites:
>Lincoln Star (Nebraska), Oct 31, 1926, p. 7/4
>Let us take a look at the Notre Dame offense. At the start it is as immune
>from power as an 1888 formation would be if brought into play today.
>Merely a balanced line and the old style backfield arrangement three backs
>in a row with the quarter under center. Then comes the "Hip" and the backs
>shift to either side of center into a "Z" formation, occasionally a second
>"Hip," but always the play is off.
>Chicago Daily Tribune, Dec 6, 1929, p. 28/2
>Well, I went out to see Rockne all right and the youngest Rockne, aged 3,
>was in the living room playing football with an older brother, and he was
>calling signals and doing the Notre Dame shift with the "hip" as he
>changed positions and everything.
>New York Times, Oct 17, 1935, p. 30/2
>The Blue quarterback barks: "One, two, three-- hip! One, two three"...
>The Blue came rushing up to the line with renewed savage shouts. One, two,
>three-- hip! One, two, three-- and away!
>Gettysburg Compiler (Penn.), Dec 7, 1940, p. 4/7
>"Listen, Stuhldreher! You're calling the 'hip' too slow! The whole point
>of this shift is to catch our opponents by surpriseĀ—- off-balance! They
>could knit a sweater between your signals!"
>Interestingly, the "hip" signal of Rockne's quarterbacks might have evoked
>not only marching cadences but also the "hip-hop" movement that the
>offensive line made with every shift.  There are cites referring to the
>Notre Dame shift with the terms "hip-hop", "hippity-hop", and
>"hip-hip-hop" (half a century before "Rapper's Delight"!).
>_Chicago Daily Tribune_ Oct 7, 1928, p. N3/8
>There's that rhythmic shift of Rockne's-- one, two-- to the left--
>hip-hop! ... Now watch that dancing sidestep, the whole back field moves
>hippity-hop to the left in perfect tempo.
>_Los Angeles Times_ Sep 18, 1931, p. II9/6
>After more than an hour of this tough work, Spaulding started a length
>signal drill with the teams aligned as mentioned above. The Bruin coach
>has his backs counting one, two, three, a la Notre Dame, on their
>hip-hip-hop shift.
>--Ben Zimmer

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