Printable Version
Pronunciation: hut-næ-ni Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: (Slang) 1. A thingamabob, thingamajig, or whatchamacallit. 2. Something insignificant, of little importance. 3. A folk music jam session.

Notes: The Oxford English Dictionary, known to collect every word that has ever appeared in English print, gives three spellings of this word: hootnanny, hootenanny, and hootananny. Those who use this word seem to have settled on the one above.

In Play: We probably owe this word's sense of "a folksong session" to Pete Seeger, who popularized it in the 30s. Due to the TV show of the 60s, Hootenanny, the third meaning is probably the most prominent: "Y'all bring your guitars when you come tonight and we'll have a good ol' timey hootenanny." Among older Southerners, you still hear this word used to refer to a thingamabob: "Well, I got the lawnmower back together, but I have this little hootenanny here left over. Do you know what it's for?"

Word History: No one seems to know where this word came from, which unfetters us to speculate. The word first appeared at the beginning of the 20th century in the sense of "doohickey, thingamabob". For the third meaning, I would bet on an old Southern expression, hoot 'na holler "a hoot and a holler", used now to refer to a small distance: "They live just a hoot 'na holler from here". However, my kin down South often refer to children making a lot of noise as "a-hootin' an' a-hollerin'". The interesting connection here is that the -in' an' reduces to the -enan- we find in the middle of hootenanny. It is imaginable that the hollerin' was dropped, leaving hootin' an' just a hoot and a holler from hootenany, lacking only the common English suffix -y.

Dr. Goodword,

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