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

Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Fri Jan 14 21:10:57 UTC 2005

On Jan 14, 2005, at 12:38 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "Hip" in Football: Precursor to "Hut"?
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> 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...

Well-played, Larry!

For the record, the official spelling - and the officially-recommended
approximate pronunciation - of the cadence is "HUT! TOOP! THREEP! FAW!"
I can no longer remember the number of the Army manual in which this is
codified. But I don't think that anybody here really cares, in any


>> --------
>> _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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