The Three Faces of Ho

Posted on July 16, 2014. Filed under: English, language | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

This is a meaningless exercise in free association, so don’t expect too much.

Looks like another dry spell in my campaign to improve the attitudes and perceptions of you, the general public.  WAIT A SECOND!  What is that down here in the bottom of my trash can?  Let me un-wad this paper and see what we got.  O-kay…   there!

…it’s the word “ho.”

That’s all — just one word like a single drop of water in an empty desert.  It was part of a thought train a few months ago that passed its station without stopping to take on passengers.  Hmm!  Maybe it has fermented a little, and I can get some squeezing’s from it.  Let’s give it a shot.

Well, mathematically speaking, there is 1(ho), 2(ho), 3(ho), ho+x, x+ho.  X would be a variable like in an algebra formula.*  Ho, by itself, actually has several uses:

  • An attention getter as in “land ho!”
  • Something you throw, as in “heave ho.”
  • A socially derogatory term used either literally or euphemistically for somewhat indiscriminate social behavior, and can be applied to either gender.
  • The symbol for the metallic element holmium (Ho) which has an atomic weight of 67 if your are interested.

Sometimes, a single ho will act…   well…   like a ho…   and consort with unsavory types.  Such as the disrespecting hum:

  • ho-hum (ho+x) = “Oh, really?” or “Am I supposed to believe that?” or “Groan.  That is so boring.”

And those x + ho’s:

  • gung-ho, a trait of insufferable zealot-ism.
  • yo-ho = pirate talk, as in “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.”  After a bottle of rum, I would wager that makes perfect sense.
  • heigh ho = a word with identity issues.  Miriam Webster says it is “used to express boredom, weariness or sadness,” while says it is “used to call attention to or give encouragement.”  So, exactly what were those seven dwarfs** trying to convey?

Twin ho’s — 2(ho) — come in a variety pack:

  • ho ho = identical twins; happy ones, too.
  • oh ho = mirror twins.  They mean:  “What th…?”*** or “Caught you, didn’t I?”
  • Ho Ho = a really sweet couple (it’s a brand name)
  • ho…   ho! = estranged twins;  “Was that supposed to be funny?”

Ho times 3 has only one use:

  • Santa’s standard answer to the seasonal question, “What are you doing in my bedroom?”***


I think my station is coming up, so I’m getting off this train.



* I could have said algorithm, but, that sounds — erroneously — like I am invoking the Great Father of the internet, Al Gore, whose famous Al Gore ithm, “I created the internet,” was the joke of the 20th century.

** Of Snow White/Walt Disney fame

*** That would be “WTF?!” to those ubiquitous Children of the Thumbs (the texting generation)



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