Why Do Men Say "Hubba Hubba" When They See a Beautiful Girl?

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website.

There are certain expressions that are very "in" and "hip" for a relatively short time, then pretty much disappear. Such are "groovy," "the cat's meow," "the bee's knees," etc. Slang expressions are constantly changing in every society, as societies themselves change. "Hubba Hubba" would fall into this category.

Once a very common expression, it isn't used much anymore, but it hasn't completely left us. "Hubba Hubba," as most of us already know, is an expression used by a man when he spots a good-looking, desirable woman. I can be used to communicate the sighting to a fellow man (or men), or he can use it to "compliment" the woman. It is rather like the old-fashioned classic "wolf whistle." Not used much anymore, but almost everyone knows what it means, as we see it in old movies.

The expression has also been used by women upon seeing a good-looking guy, but not nearly as often. It is campy, and will usually be taken in good humor. 

The origin of the expression "Hubba Hubba" is very murky and nebulous. Some say it derives from the Chinese greeting "How pu how." It was first used by Army Air Corps personnel during World War II; they got it from Chinese pilots being trained in Florida. It was popularized by Bob Hope, who used to broadcast his weekly radio show from military bases. Hope often used military expressions to get laughs.

(Image credit: Flickr user Joel Abroad)

Another origin theory is also military. It supposedly derives from its closest English word "hubbub." The military leader would try to muster enthusiasm in his troops and would order them to shout the words. It is based on the possibly specious theory that one can stir up enthusiasm by having people shout, but there may be some truth to it.

Another military theory is that "hubba hubba" is a form of "Hup hup hup," used by a drill sergeant commanding his troops to march faster.

Another school of thought says it started as a baseball term. It was a form of "hurry hurry' and originally was said as "habba habba" or "haba haba." It was just a term of encouragement, like "Come on! Let's go get 'em!"

The weakest theory is that it comes from Ralph Kramden, Jackie Gleason's character in the popular TV series The Honeymooners. When Ralph was confused or excited, he would babble the words "hamina hamina hamina." It would seem to fit, whenever ralph spotted a gorgeous woman, he would, indeed, say "hamina hamina hamina." This evolved into "hubba hubba." This theory is obviously wrong because "hubba hubba" was used long before the TV show The Honeymooners was ever shown.  "Hubba hubba" was commonly used in the 1940s and The Honeymooners wasn't on the air until the 1950s.

Dig Ya Later A-Hubba Hubba Hubba
(YouTube link)
Perry Como and Martha Stewart in the 1945 film Doll Face.

Double type or repeater words are actually not very common in the English language. "Dum dum" bullets would be an example of a repeater word, in this case originating from India. "Boo boo" would be another.

Sometimes words are doubled to show emphasis, like "tut tut," which can be repeated as necessary. The most popular new repeater word may be "yadda yadda" or "yadda yadda yadda," which gained popularity from the TV show Seinfeld. Although popular in America, the term actually originated in Britain.

The emphasis factor would seem to apply to "hubba hubba," as a good-looking girl always produces an excited or enthusiastic reaction from guys.

The sexual connotation is less clear. How exactly did this military term, or baseball term, come to describe a woman? Of course, as with any question there is a logical answer -somewhere. Unfortunately, with "hubba hubba," it may have gotten lost in time.

Hubba Hubba Zoot Zoot
(YouTube link)
A 1980 song by Michael B. Tretow and Ted Gäredestad, collectively know as Caramba.

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I notice the graphic of it being used in a Tex Avery cartoon. Not sure about this phrase but Tex said he came up with "What's up doc?" because it was a common term he used in North Dallas High School growing up where he graduated in 1926. Maybe Hubba Hubba was similar.
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