Wotcha! 
Posted: 20 June 2009 02:21 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Popular greeting around my part of England in the 1970s and still heard today, but what’s the derivation?

UD offers the following opinions:

‘wotcha’ is a greeting

origins: ultimately dates back hundreds of years

it’s a contraction followed by a phonetic spelling of:

“what chere cheer be with you?”, which was a common phrase used as a greeting

chere/cheer meant ‘face’ and thus referred to a person’s expression of their mood
person a: ‘hello!’

person b: ‘wotcha!’

Or:

English Slang for “What’s up?”
“Wotcha mate!”

While UD is great for ideas, it seems to be 100% anecdotal and 0% evidence based. So what do we think here? Is it really “What Cheer!”?

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Posted: 20 June 2009 05:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Seems likely (link and link).

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Posted: 27 June 2009 09:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I note with interest that lyric sites for Knocked ‘em in the Old Kent Road (as sung by Alfred Chevalier, 1861-1923, and, later Shirley Temple), for example here, give the spelling Wot Cher, two separate words, which is certainly how it’s sung in the song ("Wot [beat] Cher!” all the neighbours cried ...) and which reinforces the idea that the expression is derived from “What Cheer!”.

But how is this related to Bertie Wooster’s jovial greeting? Bad joke - what did Bertie reply when his gentleman’s gentleman asked him who his favourite French painter was? “Watteau, Jeeves!”.

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Posted: 28 June 2009 06:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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There’s a very similar sounding term which was much in evidence in London and the South in the 70s and 80s, though unrelated and with a different sense. (You don’t hear it as much now). The term is gertcha[/ and it expresses anger.

Here’s OED:

Vulgar corruption of get away (or along) with you, etc., used esp. as a derisive expression of disbelief.

1937 PARTRIDGE Dict. Slang 323/1 Gertcher, get out of it, you! 1937 C. DAY LEWIS Starting Point 204 Gurtcher! If Voycey was to let ‘imself go, Sid’d wake up in ‘ospital. 1939 ‘J. BELL’ Death at Half-Term vii. 132 ‘Go down to the Old Vic sometime and see the real thing for yourself.’ ‘Gercha!’ said Inspector Mitchell. 1949 J. B. PRIESTLEY Delight xxxii. 89 ‘One of the most energetic and prolific of our authors...’ Gertcha! 1963 ‘G. CARR’ Lewker in Norway ii. 30 ‘Gertcha!’ The orator..elbowed him away.

And here is the TV beer ad of the 80s which shows its usual pronunciation rather nicely.

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Posted: 30 June 2009 03:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Sounds like the ‘good cheer’ option is the real deal…

But at first reading, it dislodged an old memory from younger days spent working as a waiter in southern France.

Every morning, an old bloke would come along for his 11 o’clock pernod (!). Even more amazing, he was an expat Scot who had been there for decades and had also spent a bit of time in the States which had americanised what was left of his Scottish accent. He had also lost a lot of his English vocabulary from his time in France but did his best once he knew I was Scottish too.

His unchanging greeting on seeing me was always an English one that I didn’t understand at first but reminded me now of ‘Wotcher’. His version was ‘Wodja say?’. In the beginning I used to reply, ‘well I don’t know, what do I say?’… to no response whatsoever!

But is that a genuine American way of greeting someone? What do you say?

Nice that this thread let me ask something I had forgotten for decades, hope someone can help out?

[ Edited: 30 June 2009 03:43 PM by BlackGrey ]
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Posted: 30 June 2009 05:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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But is that a genuine American way of greeting someone? What do you say?

I’ve heard it before, though it’s not real common.  Someone here cites Stuart Berg Flexner as saying it originated in the 1920s; I expect it was formerly more common that it is today.

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Posted: 30 June 2009 09:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Cagney made the longer version well-known in the 1938 movie Angels With Dirty Faces. His character’s customary greeting is ‘Whaddya hear, whaddya say’. If this version is used now it’s used (as in The Sopranos) with conscious reference to Cagney.

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Posted: 01 July 2009 03:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Thanks Dr T and Aldi!

The twenties, Cagney, I’m sure I did hear it in some gangster film from that period or a bit later at some time since my table-waiting in Port Grimaud.

Or maybe that’s just wishful believing… nice to clear it up anyhow.

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Posted: 07 July 2009 02:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I’m reminded of one of the Asterix stories (English version), which I loved as a kid, when the village chief Vitalstatistix meets one of the occupying Roman chiefs. “Ave” says the Roman, “Wotcher” returns Vitalstatistix.

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