Occupational Lore: Hoorah


University of Southern California

Marine OCS

Marshall School of Business

Spanish, English, German

Corona, California.

25 April 2011

Occupational folklore/folk speech

“Hoorah” Sometimes spelled “Oorah”

Pronounced “Who-rah” or “air-rah”

As explained by CB.

“Hoorah is a word that means a lot of things. In short I can mean everything and anything but ‘No.’ It’s a word slash sound that’s used only by people in the US Marine Corp. If someone used it, and wasn’t a Marine or personally knew a Marine…um it would offend a lot of people. I’m sorry, I’m not explaining this clearly. It’s really complicated and hard to explain because it’s just something we (Marines) know how it’s used. I’ll give you some examples of its use…that should help. If someone mentions the Marines or the Corp, it’s totally acceptable to say ‘Hoorah,’ basically meaning ‘Fuck yea.’  If ordered to do something, a Marine can respond with it, basically meaning ‘I understand’ or ‘yes.’ Often times it can be used to motivate someone or pump them up. We yell it when someone does something awesome, or to celebrate an accomplishment.” Its significance, as explained by CB is an important identifier of being a Marine. Only Marines should use it. It can be used in a variety of ways, and it can be spoken in a variety of tones in order to convey feelings of joy, disgust, anger, exasperation, etc. CB explains that he can’t remember when he first heard it, but that all of the sudden he just picked it up. He learned how to use it, when it appropriate to use, by observing other Marines. The origin of the word, by CB’s reckoning, comes from the sound of the Klaxon in a submarine when it is diving. He states that he doesn’t remember when or from where he heard this origin myth.

In looking at the significance of Hoorah, I grapple with the same difficultly of explaining it as CB did in his interview. Even as a member of ROTC, which has a similar word (Hooah), the idea of Hoorah is inherently difficult to grasp. As Folklore, Hoorah exemplifies the idea of multiplicity and variation. It can be pronounced in different ways, to imply different meanings, and it literally can replace entire phrases of words. Agreeing with CB, Hoorah is not really a word, but more of a guttural sound. Hoorah also meets the requirement that it is unofficial discourse in an otherwise literary society. He didn’t learn it from a manual nor was he ever formally taught it. He picked it up by just being a member of a group that used it. Hoorah also appears to be an example of occupational folklore. Though it can theoretically used by anybody, the proper place Hoorah should be used by a member of the US Marine Corp. Hoorah serves as a linguistic marker, identifying an individual as a member of the Marines.

Hoorah can literally be found in any movie that features a group of Marines. One example of its ability to identify an individual as a member of the Marine Corp is in the show Jericho. In the show, a group of individuals masquerade as Marines. One of the characters, a retired Sergeant in the Army, realizes that they are fakes when one “Marine” uses the word Hooah instead of Hoorah.