Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hear! Hear! Can You "Here" Me Now?

It seems that I am besieged by pet peeves of late. I reached the tipping point with another common error this week and have decided that clarification was long overdue. Let me hear you say, “Hear! Hear!” (That I wrote that, disregarding the fact that I know full well that I cannot hear you, must wait for another day. My irritation arose over the interjection.)

When you express your enthusiastic support for another, you write, “Hear! Hear!” You intend to call the attention of others to what you consider an important or eloquent point so that they may “hear” what the original “speaker” had to say.

Because the phrase grew out of oral.(and aural) situations, the spelling makes sense. In posts and comments around the Internet, however, you find people writing, “Here! Here!” While I sympathize with the idea that the respondent means to point out something about which they feel strongly, that doesn't make them correct.

Imagine the British Parliament of three hundred years ago, a rowdy bunch arguing and debating many issues at once. Of a sudden, a man shouts, “Hear him! Hear him!” and the group quiets to listen to one member make a point. So far as I can uncover, the abbreviation of that practice explains the phrase.

Recall that mental image when you write your support for another's post. The on-line rabble squabbles and squeals like a spoiled, drunken bunch of landed gentry in1750. When one of them breaks out of the crowd with a valuable contribution, help it get heard. Now, pardon me whilst I stow my soap box.