Q: You uttered the term “hoo-ha” (shiver), instead of “hoopla,” not once, but twice on the air! Didn’t you know that “hoo-ha” now means vagina and the word for uproar is “hoopla”?
A: No, I didn’t know!
The word “hoo-ha,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, has meant “a commotion, a rumpus, a row” since 1931, when it was introduced in the pages of the British magazine Punch: “The devil of a hoo-ha in the papers about increasing the demand for English-grown corn.”
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.) also lists “hoo-ha,” which it defines as a fuss or disturbance, and so does Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.), which defines the term as an uproar or an exclamation of surprise.
The OED says the origin of “hoo-ha” is unknown, but American-Heritage and Merriam-Webster’s say it’s probably from a Yiddish word for uproar or exclamation.
As for “hoopla,” it has long been used for a similar purpose, with the additional meanings of excitement or extravagant publicity. The two US dictionaries suggest it may be derived from houp-là, a French exclamation similar to “upsy-daisy.”
By the way, “hoopla” (or “hoop-la”) is also the name of a game in which the players try to throw rings around potential prizes, according to the OED.
But you’re right about “hoo-ha” – a little googling does turn up some telltale uses of the term to mean a woman’s genital area. I guess I’d better watch myself until this catchy usage goes away (if it does).