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Atlantic City’s Impact on the English Language

“‘Woot’ voted Merriam-Webster word of the year” is the newslead that many of us read and scratched our head. I thought, “where do they come up with these things?”

A deeper probe by The Atlantic City Scoop reveals that Atlantic City is the place of this word’s origin, or at least the beginning of its popular usage. According to etymologist Grant Barrett:

“After a couple of examples of “whoot” or “woot” as an onomatopoeic representation of video game sounds in news stories from 1982, the earliest clear-cut use of the word found so far is in the name of the Atlantic City, N.J., entertainment tabloid The Whoot! which shows up in 1988 as a sponsor of the ugliest bartender contest in Philadelphia. In 2003 The Whoot! changed its name to the Atlantic City Weekly. Current AC Weekly editor Michael Epifanio says that The Whoot was so-named by founder Lew Steiner after ‘night owls who would pull all-nighters to scout out the bars, clubs and restaurants and then send the publication out to print.'”

This public interest piece should be widely disseminated. After the national stigma of the “Missing Mayor” any positive press contributes to eliminating that stigma to the nation’s perception of Atlantic City.

(Reading the announcement of “Woot” as word of the year – http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5ileUw1tWfWTY4wpRO8Ak67PixHfQ)
(Reading modern etymologist Grant Barrett’s discovery of Atlantic City’s linguistic influence – http://www.doubletongued.org/index.php/grantbarrett/the_real_history_and_origin_of_woot_and_w00t/)


About Jesse O. Kurtz

I am committed to fulfilling the promise of Atlantic City. The town would benefit from greater political participation by average citizens. Hopefully, some of the posts herein will encourage you to get more involved in your community. This blog will also feature other topics and subjects beyond Atlantic City. I hope that you will come to love Atlantic City as much, or more than I do.


4 thoughts on “Atlantic City’s Impact on the English Language

  1. Me again! This time a little bit less bile and a bit more constructive, but no less critical. Your etymological source is spouting some of the most absurd claptrap I have ever heard, and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how “internet language” develops.
    Internet speak, or “leet,” is based largely on English and comprised largely of phonetic substitutions and abbreviations. Examples of this second category could include: FTW, QFT, STFU, and of course, w00t. The most common explanation given by actual “speakers” of leet suggests that this term arose as a convenient text-chat form of “we owned the other team.”
    The problem with studying leet is that, unless you are below a certain age or have maintained a steady level of internet saturation, then its development will become largely opaque to you. There is no reliable, substantive way to trace a leet term back to its “first user,” and thus there is absolutely no credible way to find any sort of analogue in the non-net world.
    I regret to say you have been taken in by bad linguistic science.

    Posted by Clay Allen | December 13, 2007, 1:43 pm
  2. The Word of the Year is actually “w00t”. Notice the zeros, not the letter o.

    The word is a form of “l33t” speak, commonly used on internet message boards.

    “l33t” is derived from “elite”, the status given to higher ranking bulletin board users back in the early days of the internet.

    “W00t” is most commonly used in the videogame world, but not because of a sound!

    Posted by Charlie | December 14, 2007, 1:14 pm
  3. Here’s what Oxford University Press’ Oxford English Dictionary (www.oed.com) has to say about “whoot” listed under “hoot”:

    Forms: 3 huten, (4 huit), 4-5 houte(n, howte(n, hot(en, 6-7 howt, hout, 7- hoot, (7-9 whoot). [ME. h{umac}ten is found c1200: perh. echoic, representing an inarticulate sound like the hooting of owls or the ‘toot’ of a horn or pipe, of which the characteristic vowel is u (being that heard at the greatest distance, whence its use in distant calls, as hoo! hoo!, cooee, etc.). Cf. Swedish huta ut ‘to take one up sharply’, MHG. hiuzen, húzen to call to the pursuit; also Da. huie to shout, cry, halloo, Fr. huer to hoot, and the exclamations mentioned under HOOT int. But the phonology presents difficulties: beside h{umac}ten, ME. had h{omac}ten, north. and Sc. huit, hute: perhaps a different word. ME. h{umac}ten regularly gave later hout, howt, down to 17th c., when its place appears to have been taken by hoot, which might either be the descendant of OE. h{omac}ten, or an alteration of hout under the influence of the natural sounds (cf. CUCKOO). The late spelling whoot was due to the influence of who, whom, whose.]

    1. a. intr. To shout, call out, make an inarticulate vocal noise; to toot with a horn; now, esp., to utter loud sounds of disapproval or obloquy.
    a1225 [see HOOTING vbl. n.]. c1350 Will. Palerne 2387 {Th}ei..went after {th}e werwolf..hotend out wi{th} hornes. c1380 Sir Ferumb. 3225 {Th}anne by-gunne {th}ay to grede & houte. c1440 Promp. Parv. 251/2 Howtyn, or cryyn, boo. Ibid., Howtyn, or cryen as shepmenn,..celeumo. c1450 Cov. Myst. (Shaks. Soc.) 182 Upon my spere, A gerle I bere, I dare welle swere Lett moderes howte. 1601 SHAKES. Jul. C. I. ii. 245 And still as hee refus’d it, the rabblement howted, and clapp’d their chopt hands. 1610 ROWLANDS Martin Mark-all 35 At this newes the whole fraternity of Vagabonds whooted for ioy. 1654 H. L’ESTRANGE Chas. I (1655) 19 Recusants..frequently passed through the Churches in time of Divine Service houting and ho-lo-ing. 1666 WOOD Life (O.H.S.) II. 76 They houted and hum’d all the way from the Scooles to Xt. Ch. 1711 ADDISON Spect. No. 131 {page}7, I do not hoot and hollow and make a Noise. Mod. The crowd began to hoot.

    b. To call out or shout opprobriously at ({dag}on) or after any one. (With indirect passive.)
    a1300 Cursor M. 15833 {Th}ai huited on him viliker {th}an he had ben a hund. 1565 T. STAPLETON Fortr. Faith 118 What is more houted at, scoffed and scorned in Englande now. 1592 NASHE P. Penilesse (ed. 2) 28b, Young children howted at her as a strumpet. 1611 SHAKES. Wint. T. V. iii. 116 [It] should be hooted at Like an old Tale. 1624 GEE Foot out of Snare v. 27 All who meet with their modern books, may hoot at them. 1741 RICHARDSON Pamela I. 67, I cannot wear those good things without being whooted at. 1820 W. IRVING Sketch Bk. I. 78 A troop of strange children ran at his heels, hooting after him.

    c. To laugh. colloq.
    1926 T. E. LAWRENCE Seven Pillars (1935) X. cxxii. 659 At this onslaught I cackled out like a chicken, with the wild laughter of strain… I hooted out again. 1928 S. VINES Humours Unreconciled xv. 201 The first time I came across it, ‘Shakespeare has no bloody relation with Schiller’, I just hooted. 1959 N. MAILER Advts. for Myself (1961) 168 The others hoot, they giggle, they are weak from the combination of their own remarks and the action of the plot. 1969 New Yorker 28 June 37/2 She’d mention him tragically, then hoot with laughter.

    2. a. trans. To assail with shouts or sounds of disapproval, contempt, or derision.
    c1200 ORMIN 2034 {Ygh}iff mann wollde tælenn {th}att, & hutenn hire utenn. Ibid. 4875 Whærse icc amm bitwenenn menn Icc hutedd amm utedd. 1377 LANGL. P. Pl. B. II. 218 He was nawhere welcome..Ouer al yhowted and yhote trusse. 1508 DUNBAR Tua mariit Wemen 465 Fy on hir!.. Hutit be the halok. 1611 B. JONSON Catiline III. ii, The Owle of Rome, whom boyes and girles will hout! 1728 YOUNG Love Fame II. (1757) 90 Tho’ hiss’d and whooted by the pointing crowd. 1740 C. PITT Virg., Æneid XII. (R.), How will the Latians hoot their hero’s flight! 1875 JOWETT Plato (ed. 2) I. 132 They will not listen to him, but laugh at him, and hoot him.

    b. To drive (a person) out, away, or in any direction, (a play) off or from (the stage), by shouts and sounds of disapproval.
    1393 LANGL. P. Pl. C. III. 228 He was..Ouer-al houted out and yhote trusse. 1624 FLETCHER Rule a Wife I. i, I would give the Boys leave to whoot me out o’ th’ Parish. 1683 KENNETT tr. Erasm. on Folly 29 [He] could never recover himself but was houted and hissed home again. 1712 STEELE Spect. No. 443 {page}7 There is neither Mirth nor Good-humour in hooting a young Fellow out of Countenance. 1843 MACAULAY Ess., Mad. D’Arblay (1887) 743 His play had not been hooted from the boards. 1895 19th Cent. Aug. 327 They can tell the public that work which they elect to hoot off the stage is first rate in quality.

    3. a. intr. Applied to the cry of some birds, spec. of the owl.
    a1500 Cuckow & Night. 185 Thou shalt be as other that been forsake, And than thou shalt hoten as do I [the Cuckoo]. 1601 SHAKES. Jul. C. I. iii. 28 The Bird of Night did sit..vpon the Market place, Howting, and shreeking. 1618 WITHER Motto, Nec Careo Wks. (1633) 531 No more..Then doth the Moone [fear] when dogs and birds of night Doe barking stand or whooting at her light. 1750 G. HUGHES Barbadoes 153 Even doves..will not whoot, if deprived of these and bird-pepper. 1820 W. IRVING Sketch Bk. (1859) 131 The owl [shall] hoot from the shattered tower.

    b. trans. To utter or express by hooting.
    a1687 COTTON Fable (R.), Perched on Parnassus all night long, He [an owl] hoots a sonnet or a song.

    4. Applied to certain sounds mechanically produced, esp. that of a steam siren or ‘hooter’, used as a signal to workmen for beginning or ceasing work, a fog-signal, etc. Also, to emit the sound of a motor-horn (said of the horn, the motor vehicle, or the driver). Also trans. to hoot her way (of a ship): to make her way (as in a fog) with continuous hooting.
    1883 STEVENSON Silverado Sq. (1886) 84 A cuckoo-clock..hooted at intervals. 1890 Daily News 29 Sept. 6/6 It was not a dangerous fog, but our ship had to hoot her way for some distance down. 1896 R. KIPLING Seven Seas 3 Through the yelling Channel tempest when the siren hoots and roars. 1912 BEERBOHM in Seven Men (1919) 129 Our car neither slackened nor hooted. 1927 [see HONK n. b]. 1957 A. CLARKE Later Poems (1961) 58 Badge and holy medal guide Your cars home, hooting through our dirtiest lanes. 1966 J. BETJEMAN High & Low 65 Who dares to come hooting at me? I only give way to a Jag.


    hoot, v.

    Add: [4.] b. trans. Of the driver of a motor vehicle or (occas.) transf. of the vehicle itself: to sound (a horn); to transmit or express by making such a sound. Cf. HONK v. 2 b.
    1948 ‘J. TEY’ Franchise Affair x. 112, I shall hoot the initials of your beautiful name on the horn. 1958 I. MURDOCH Bell ii. 27 He stopped the car beside the wall, its wheels deep in the grass, and hooted the horn twice. 1976 Economist 23 Oct. 54/3 Hundreds of off-duty policemen have demonstrated in the streets of New York, keeping residents and hospital patients awake by hooting their horns. 1989 Independent 27 Nov. 1/6 Passing cars, many adorned with the national flag or red, white and blue ribbons, hooted their support.

    Posted by Anthony Giacona | December 17, 2007, 3:37 pm


  1. Pingback: Atlantic City: Feminist Milestone? « The Atlantic City Scoop - January 28, 2008

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