Rebel yell, "hooray" & "'ray!"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Tue Dec 5 19:15:22 UTC 2006

Someone asked a while ago whether Americans shouted "hooray!" in the 19th C. The OED certainly suggests that they did, though its exx. (back to 1778 as "Hurrea") are British. Here is a cite (from a valuable article on the "rebel yell" referred to earlier) that adds to our knowledge of spelling conventions as well as of 19th C. styles of cheering in America:

  1892 J. Harvie Dew in _Century Mag._ (Apr.) 955: In a moment more, one of the Federal regiments was ordered to charge, and down they came upon us....Then was heard their peculiar characteristic yell - "Hoo-ray! Hoo-ray! Hoo-ray!"  etc. (this yell was called by teh Federals a "cheer," and was intended for the word "hurrah," but that pronunciation I never heard in a charge). The sound was as though the first syllable, if heard at all, was "hoo," uttered with an exceedingly short, low, and indistinct tone, and the second was "ray," yelled with a long high tone slightly deflecting at its termination. In many cases the yell seemed to be the simple interjection "heigh," rendered with the same tone which was given to "ray."

  The references to Union cheering that I've seen write "hurrah" virtually without exception.

  Virginia cavalryman Dew, a physician when he wrote his article in 1892, agrees fully with the English accounts likewise unearthed by Read that the mass "rebel yell" differed unmistakably from the Yankee "hurrah."  Or "hooray," as the case may be.


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