Which is Correct: Hear Here, or Hear Hear?
Have you ever wondered why the British seem to be saying the phrase "Hear, hear!" with such gusto? If you have, you might also have wondered if they were saying "hear, hear!" or instead "here, here!". Knowing the difference and correct spelling is vital as a content writer.
Although quite different from ours, many people know a little about how courtrooms work in the United Kingdom (i.e., England) via television and movies. Who hasn't seen at least one scene of elderly men in their funny-looking white wigs arguing a case in oh-so-genteel terms? (Trial & Retribution is an excellent example.)
The same goes for the Parliament in Britain, where laws and rules are hashed out similarly. Like the Supreme Court in the United States, the British Parliament is the country's supreme legal authority. They can create and/or end any law and argue their points and opinions about them heartily.
What does all of this interesting information have to do with today's subject, the correct usage of "hear hear" or "here here"? Simple. The phrase "hear, hear" originated several hundred years ago in the British courtrooms and Parliament we've talked about. They use the term or phrase to draw attention to an argument or another lawyer or lawmaker while performing their work. Below we'll explain why they do and how the phrase "hear, hear" came to be. (Interestingly, the spelling conundrum with "Forty or Fourty" and which one is the correct spelling did not originate in the United Kingdom as many people believe.)
The British are Coming
The word "hear" in the United Kingdom was used very often during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, but not exactly how we use it in the United States. For example, when introducing a public announcement, the town crier in England would shout out "Hear ye, hear ye," which verbatim meant "Listen to me, listen to me." This usage was back when town criers would walk around and announce new laws and other public information by yelling it out as they walked through town.
In the British Parliament, the members concocted a similar phrase for use by the House members. The reason, however, wasn't to shout out an announcement but to acknowledge a colleague and give them a chance to argue their point. Instead of "Hear ye," which meant "listen to me," they would say "Hear hear," which literally (and liberally) translated meant "Hear him." In short, it was a way for the Parliament members to call attention to a particular member and allow him (and, eventually, her) to talk and be heard.
British Courtroom Rules are Very Different From America's
You might be asking, "why would they say "hear hear" and not "Hey, listen to Joe Black, he's got a great point"? The reason is that, in the United Kingdom, the rules about how people can address each other are very strict and, some would say, old-fashioned. For example, Parliament members aren't allowed to clap because it's seen as disturbing the courtroom proceedings. Also, suppose you want to refer to someone in the British Parliament. In that case, you can't say, "Hey, everyone, listen to Joe Black," because you're not allowed to call on someone by name. For that reason, they use various methods to refer to their colleagues, including terms like "my esteemed colleague" or "the honorable gentleman to my left." This odd rule, being unable to call another parliament member by their name, led to the very debate we're having in today's article.
From "Hear Him" to "Hear, Hear!"
So let's say you're a British Parliament member and want to encourage your fellow members to listen to a particular argument or point made by another colleague. (You agree with them, for example, or believe their point to be valid.) You want your colleagues to be quiet and listen closely, but you can't say, "Hey, guys, listen to Joe Black; he's making a valid point!"
Instead, back in the 17th century, they started saying "hear him!" which meant being quiet and listening to the argument or point being made. "Hear him!" was often said with enthusiasm so that others knew you were dead serious. One reason was that the halls of Parliament were often filled with the loud voices of men trying to make many different arguments. Also, it must be noted that the phrase was "hear him" and never "hear her," as women were not allowed to be part of Parliament until 1918. Nancy Astor was the first woman to take a seat in Parliament in 1919. By that time, "Hear, hear!" was fully part of the lexicon.
Eventually, "hear him" was replaced by "hear, hear." This new term had a sort of double meaning. Parliament members could use it to say, "Gentlemen, listen to Joe Black's argument, please!". However, Parliament members could also use it to say, "Gentlemen, this is a very good argument and should be listened to by everyone!" Examples of the term "hear, hear!" can be found in the Oxford English Dictionary dating back to the 17th century.
An example, if you will, of the usage of the term "hear hear" in America would go something like this:
• Statement: Gentlemen, I believe it's time we all took a break, had some lunch and maybe a stiff drink before resuming our duties later in the afternoon"
• Answer: "Hear, hear!""
Is the Phrase "Here Here" Correct?
We've seen that, in the United Kingdom, they use some interesting rules when they make their rules and laws. When referring to a colleague, you can't clap or say their name (or insult them, either). But, you can ask your colleagues to listen to them and hear them out, thus the common use of the term "hear hear" to this day.
All of this boils down to one irrefutable fact, and it's this; the term is about listening, and thus the correct spelling is, and always has been, "hear hear," as hear is the correct spelling of the verb meaning "to listen."
Although you can occasionally find the term "here, here " in print, it is 100% a mistake and a misspelling. It's not a surprising mistake, given that "hear" and "here" are homophones, meaning they sound exactly alike no matter how they are used. Still, there's never been a time when the term "here, here" was accepted as the correct spelling and usage of the phrase.
Did you Hear that "Hear, Hear!" was the Correct Form?
Remembering which spelling of this relatively unused term (at least today) is used is relatively simple. Remember that it's all about hearing someone; thus, "hear, hear!" is always 100% correct. The term "here, here" is thus always 100% incorrect.
• Fair ladies and fine gentlemen of Parliament, do we agree with this assessment about the correct spelling of this UK-born phrase? "
• "Hear, hear!"
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