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Hoot? Hooter? I don't give two hoots!

By ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia

Referring to an email I'd sent him, Doug Sweet, Lifestyles editor of the Montreal Gazette (Canada), wrote in his column, "I have to share. And it's best verbatim. Enjoy. And do go to the link. It's a hoot."

Purring at the compliment, I was struck by the thought, "Hey! Not so fast! What does he mean by hoot?"

So I sought a definition from that very useful internet dictionary,, which says that hoot means the sounds of an owl, a car horn, siren, or steam whistle.

I continued to purr, until I read on, when my happiness turned to dismay. Hoot has a more sinister meaning: "Said of a person: to shout or laugh loudly, often expressing disapproval, scorn, etc.... To force (a performer) offstage by hooting."

Could it be that Doug felt that way about my story, I wondered.

I'd told him I was pleased to have read in his column that the Gazette had begun publishing the amusing syndicated comic strip Nothing Rhymes With Orange, but, I wrote, the title of the strip was misleading. (A Canuck canard, they might say in Montreal).

"Contrary to popular belief, several words DO rhyme with orange," I'd told him. I hadn't disclosed to him what those words were, but I did give him a link to two previous stories in this e-book that listed them. Here they are again:

Gorringe. In his amusing book "Adventures of a Verbivore" US language expert and best-selling author Richard Lederer wrote:

It's not true that no words rhyme with orange . . . However, there was a man -- I'm not kidding -- named Henry Honeychurch Gorringe. He was a naval commander who in the mid-nineteenth century oversaw the transport of Cleopatra's Needle to New York's Central Park. Pouncing on this event, the poet Arthur Guiterman wrote:

In Sparkhill buried lies a man of mark
Who brought the Obelisk to Central Park,
Redoubtable Commander H. H. Gorringe,
Whose name supplies the long-sought rhyme for orange.

Other words that rhyme with orange are:

Blorenge or Blorange (a mountain in Wales),

Porange. In H. R. Pufnstuf, a children's TV show of long ago, Witchiepoo sang a song that went:

Oranges poranges, who says, oranges poranges,
who says, oranges poranges, who says--
there ain't no rhyme for oranges!

Another possible rhyme is Sporange. Webster’s Third Unabridged and the Oxford English Dictionaries both describe it as a variant of sporangium, a botanical term. Webster’s indicates that it can be pronounced as rhyming with orange, or as spuh-randj (stressing the second syllable), while Oxford allows only the second pronunciation, which ruins the rhyme.

Norange is another word that rhymes with orange, although some recalcitrant researchers assert there never was such a word. Well, there is now.

Etymologists say the luscious orange
Once was strangely called a norange.

My search for the meaning of hoot led me to think of an allied word, hooter. Most dictionaries say it means someone or something (including a nose) that makes a hooting sound. (My ever-loving wife sometimes called my nose a bugle).

I found this helpful information in an article by Steve and Edie in Connecticut's leading newspaper, the Hartford Advocate:

Explaining what Hooters is seems just about as necessary as having to define Burger King or 1-800-MATTRESS. It's a franchised wings, sports, and beer joint featuring smoking-hot waitresses who have noticeable assets above and beyond their serving skills."

The Urban Dictionary says hooters are also known as boobs, honkers, magumbos, mounds, melons, and breasts.


Story first posted November 2006

Copyright © 2006

Eric Shackle

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