A Dictionary of Catch Phrases: British and American, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day

By Paul Beale; Eric Partridge | Go to book overview

H

ha-ha.

See: funny peculiar.


ha, ha, bloody ha!

is 'a sarcastic c.p. that greets any stupid question' (Granville, 1969); or 'Exposing feebleness of a sarcastic or apt rejoinder' (L.A., 1969): since c. 1950. It had, by later C20, naturally been shortened to ha bloody ha!, as in Dick Francis's 'thriller', Risk, 1977: 'If I hadn't gone suddenly blind (and it didn't feel like it), I was lying somewhere where no light penetrated. Brilliant deduction. Most constructive. Ha bloody ha.' P.B.: also, in less 'polite' circles, Oh, ha fucking ha! From, of course, the written representation of the sound of laughter; cf that's a good question, and contrast:


ha! ha! ha!

'This mocking pretence to be amused, [with] last ha emphasized, I believe to come from [Frank] Richards [proper name, Charles Hamilton]. But it was often in the old “comics”. Still used' (Shaw, 1968); and still occ. in 1977. Cf both the prec., and funny peculiar or funny ha-ha?


had it-I've

[ (or you've or he's, etc.). Not a true c.p. See esp. have had it and had it in a big way, both in the DSUE and in PGR at had it. P.B.: but the frequent use, in later C20, of (e.g., I've) had it up to here, accompanied by a gesture of the flat hand held horizontally at neck level, or even higher, perhaps does qualify. Cf had the Richard.]


had one but (occ. and) the wheel came off,

mostly prec. by we. A lower- and lower-middle-class, hence also a military (Other Ranks') c.p. directed at an unintelligible speaker or speech, often a gamin comment on words, or even a single word, not understood; but also expressive of a feigned helpfulness, or a droll regret, or a gamin comment: since c. 1890; a little less frequent since WW2. Perhaps slightly commoner in Liverpool than elsewhere in England; but very widely used-in, e.g. Aus. Occ., in UK, simply had one, but it went off (Eric Fearon, 1984).


had the Richard or the dick,

usu. prec. by it's or that's, is Aus., dating from c. 1950 and referring to something that has outworn its usefulness or broken down beyond repair, esp. a motorcar or other machinery, or even furniture or crockery. (Heard by Jack Slater, 1965-9, in New South Wales, as he told me in 1978.) P.B.: perhaps local-it is not recorded by Wilkes-and poss. connected with that dick which is a slang term for the penis.


had your penn'orth or do you want a ha'penny change?

is, notably among Londoners, addressed to someone staring at the speaker: since c. 1920. (L.A., 1967.)

A good example of Cockney sarcasm at its humorously trenchant best.


had your time.

See: you've had your time.


haha! heehee!

'Briefly c. 1920…was used as a greeting-without any counter' (R.S., 1975): c. 1921-4. Cf pip-pip! and tootle-oo!


hail, hail, the gang's all here!

was orig. and popularized by a 1917 song so titled, words by Estrom, music by Morse, sung by Sullivan, as one learns from Edward B. Marks, They All Sang, 1934, and as I learned from my friend, W.J.B. Ed. McBain uses it as c.p. title for one of his detective novels.


Haines.

See: my name is H.


hair(s).

See: don't look down; every hair; get your h.; his hair; I washed; keep your h.; more hair; shall I put; she had; that'll grow; there's hair; two hairs; you can't grow.


half.

See: he's a cunt; no, half; not half; you ain't 'alf; you don't know the h.; and:


half an hour is soon lost at dinner.

In S, Dialogue II, Lord Smart says, 'Pray edge a little to make more room for Sir John. Sir John, fall to, you know half an Hour is soon lost at Dinner', which is the only record I have of this c.p., joc. ironic and reminiscent of very long sessions: prob. c. 1690-1760.


half an hour past hanging time,

mostly prec. by it's. Also in S is this c.p. reply to 'What's the time?':

NEV[EROUT]: [to Lady Answerall] Pray, Madam, do you tell me, for I let my Watch run down.

LADY ANSW: Why, 'its half an Hour past Hanging Time.

Common in C18-19, but now rare; displaced by half past

A further var. was an hour past


half-crown millionaires: all bay window and no pantry

is applied to people occupying newly-built 'desirable residences' and unwisely considering themselves 'a cut above the rest': provincial England: c. 1925-40 and then rapidly becoming †. (B.G.T., 1978.) P.B.: half-a-crown became 12½ pence on decimalization of currency in 1971, but used of course to buy considerably more than 12½p does now. Cf the synon. brown boots and no breakfast, recalled from the same date and milieu, on a 'phone-in' programme in which I took part for BBC Radio Leicester, 20 June 1984.


half left.

See: no, half left!


half past kissing time and time to kiss again,

or simply it's kissing time. These c.pp. belonged mostly to London and flourished c. 1880-1930, although they have lingered on. Orig. usu. a low c.p. reply to a woman asking a man the time; the longer phrase is recorded by B & L in 1889. It comes from a popular song by one G. Anthony:

It's half-past kissing-time, and time to kiss again.
For time is always on the move, and ne'er will still remain;

No matter what the hour is, you may rely on this:
It's always half-past kissing-time, and always time to kiss.

The longer form has also, like the shorter, been, in C20, addressed to children continually asking one the time, as HLM records in 1922. A.B., 1978, notes for the US: 'I've also heard, when someone asked the time of day, the flippant reply, “Half past my elbow and a quarter to my thumb.” Meaning that the replies did not have a watch or did not

-114-

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A Dictionary of Catch Phrases: British and American, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the First Edition ix
  • Introduction to the First Edition x
  • Modifications of the Original Introduction xii
  • Acknowledgments to the First Edition xiv
  • Preface to the Second Edition xvi
  • Acknowledgments to the Second Edition xix
  • Abbreviations xxi
  • A 1
  • B 25
  • C 42
  • D 60
  • E 79
  • F 85
  • G 96
  • H 114
  • I 136
  • J 178
  • K 181
  • L 186
  • M 200
  • N 212
  • O 228
  • P 240
  • Q 251
  • R 253
  • S 261
  • T 289
  • U 323
  • V 326
  • W 328
  • X 360
  • Y 361
  • Z 384
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