Hubba-hubba [Was: Aw, naw he di?n'!]

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Nov 15 21:44:33 UTC 2010

HDAS has "hubba-hubba" in its earlier incarnation as "hab(b)a-hab(b)a" from

The miracle of NewspaperArchive may have (almost) solved this etymological
mystery. Allow me to quote at some length:

1910 _Muscatine [Ia.] Journal_ (Feb. 11) 4:

...Ki-Ki Reweds Divorced Wife In Portland..."Ki Ki, the Haba Haba Man," as
he is known in the show world or the "monkey man" of street fair fame,  has
again won back his wife, fromerly Miss Lottie E. Wilson, to whom he was
 wedded in Muscatine on Steptember 10, 1900, and who deserted him at Seattle
last summer. Shortly after the close of the Alaskan exposition the young
wife secured a divorce from the picturesque spieler, but now she has
returned to him....The couple were married here during the street fair, at
which time the monkey man was heard daily barking for a show on Sycamore and
Second streets. He was dressed and acted like a large monkey and his "Haba
Haba" cry drew hundreds to the tent, before every performance.  The bride is
26 years old as against the even two score years of the Haba Haba Man who,
in private life, is known as Harry L. Blitz....

For twenty-four years the Haba Haba Man has been wearing his strange rig and
shouting his strange cry, which, once heard at the Seattle fair, was
repeated by thousands of children in imitation of the man with the monkey
face. Blitz says he is the son of Signor Blitz, for years with P.T. Barnum,
the great showman....The great "P.T." personally asked Blitz to make up like
[a] Zulu. He accepted the suggestion and for almost a quarter century has
been appearing in that role from one end of the world to the other....

This is fascinating evidence because:

1. it provides a believable point of origin for "hubba-hubba" even before it
was spelled that way

2. it demonstrates that a new expression could once take decades to catch on
generally (Blitz apparently began shouting "haba-haba," in 1886 but the
interjection went unattested as a national "novelty" till 1941)

3. and that was the case even though Blitz was yelling "haba haba" from one
end of the world to another for twenty-odd years and "thousands of children"
were shouting "haba haba" in the city of Seattle in 1909.

By 1912 some baseball players were saying "haba haba":

1912 _The New North_ (Rhinelander, Wis.) 1: Manager Paul Gaston of the
Rhinelander base ball [sic] club has arranged a game with the Odanah Indians
in this city next Sunday....John manager of the Indians and it
is said that when he wants them to win a game he just says "haba haba" and
they turn the trick.

In 1929, the Manitowoc [Wis.] Herald News refers to local baseball manager
"Eddie 'Haba Haba' Stumpf."  In 1932 its successor, the M. Herald-Times, is
calls him "Old Hubba-Hubba."
Which is sort of QED.

GB reveals a "1925" ex. that I cannot verify, but which looks to have the
right typography for the period: "Hug a little, snug a little, cuddle up to
Dada, / Haba Haba, Ali Baba, Baboon Blues."  Note the "baboon" connection.

GB also reveals a lone Cornish "Hubba! Hubba! Barely or blud!" in 1872, but
I will leave that to others.  It or the Irish "Hubba hubba boo!" may lie
behind Blitz's "haba haba!" but with such little attestation, they're
probably merely coincidental.


 On Mon, Nov 15, 2010 at 11:44 AM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Hubba-hubba [Was: Aw, naw he di?n'!]
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Just as a point of reference, compare to the contemporary usage:
> "In Saawariya, it was definitely the minute his towel dropped - hubba
> hubba."
> "When you think of Ricky Martin, you probably think, "hubba, hubba!" The
> former boy-band hunk of singing love is no longer just a pretty face and
> vibrating glutes, he's also a deep and thoughtful author of a new
> autobiography."
> "Now that I'm a bit older, I wish that Halloween came more often because
> it means girls wear less clothing, there's lots of candy and because The
> Office totally knows how to do a Halloween episode. Angela in a nurse
> costume? Hubba hubba."
> Enough said.
> In the cartoon setting I mentioned earlier, it was an excited utterance
> (followed by "N'yang-n'yang-n'yang-n'yang!"), but it had no sexual
> connotation.
>     VS-)
> On 11/15/2010 9:37 AM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
> > Not a definitive point, but ...
> >
> >
> > The Jacobite Relics of Scotland; Being the Songs, Airs, and Legends,
> > of the Adherents of the House of Stuart. Collected by James Hogg.
> > Edinburgh: 1819
> > Appendix, Part II. Whig Songs. On Her Majesty's Coronation. p. 417
> >> "Hubba hubba boo!" quoth the Irish dear joy,
> >> "You must not by fighting our triumphs annoy ;
> >> "For if you should cut a man in three or four halves,
> >> "By my shoul, you'll ne'er cure him by balsam nor salves.
> >
> > The only other hit is from 1936 Fisherman's Handbook, vol. 3:
> > "Hubba-Hubba spinner". If nothing else, it certainly confirms the
> > 1930s (although no snippet appears in GB to match the text of the
> > preview).
>  ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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