Where Did Boo Come From? - Ghost Report

Where Did Boo Come From? - Ghost Report

Let us talk about our favorite spooky exclamation: "Boo!" Now, my man Ricky recently asked me where this word came from and I was surprised to realize I didn't know. So, let's get in the Wayback Machine and journey back to to the 16th century.

The first recorded use of boo in the sense of something meant to frighten comes from 1639 when a poet named John Taylor put out an essay in which he included the line Thou art not able at any time to say boo to a goose. Boo actually had some earlier uses, but they had different meanings because boo can also be used to express disdain or contempt.

And in the past it was sometimes used interchangeably with Moo, the sound a cow made. But boo as something you would say to scare somebody seems to have been something made up in English with no real origins from any other language or as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, representing an inarticulate spoken sound.

A book from 1738, The Scotch Presbyterian Eloquent Displayed, defines it as "A word that's used in the north of Scotland to frighten crying children." Now Slate Magazine noted that "Boo works great because the combination of the voiced plosive B and the roaring OO sounds makes boo a particularly startling word."

Some linguists argue that the OO or OH sounds can be produced at a higher volume than other vowel sounds, such as the E in wheel. Since boo is a monosyllable, it can also be said very quickly, which may add to its. Some other early examples of boo include this from 1734, when a writer named Roger North was mocking someone.

"He should catch up his visor and clapping it on his own face, cry boo to fright neither men nor children." Ouch! Slapdown! By the middle of the 19th century, when ghost stories were exploding in popularity, boo had found its forever home as something that ghosts said.