Sunday, 22 September 2013

Boo - Startlingly Rubbish


Interjection, noun & verb. Early 19th century.
[Imitative: compare with BO interjection & noun.]

A interjection & noun. A prolonged sound expressing derision or disapproval, or an exclamation intended to startle.
Occasionally a sound (as) of cattle lowing. E19

B verb trans & intrans. Make such a sound (at);
jeer (a person, an action, etc). 

Also: booer noun E20

Boo is an incredibly powerful word; indeed, I would venture to say that it's probably the most powerful word in the English language. With what other word can you loudly express vague and unspecific disapproval at someone or something (shouting "You suck!" or "Get off the stage!" can leave you open to being challenged as to why you think they suck or should cease performing)? With what other word can you startle someone so much that there's the possibility they might wet themself (even a little bit)? And with what other word can you entertain a slightly dim child for hours on end? According to the OED, you can even use boo to do a really bad impersonation of a cow - it's just that flexible. 

In honour of this great word, I therefore implore all readers of Lexicolatry to boo someone today, to shout "Boo!" at someone, and to play peek-a-boo (preferably with a child - the cow impersonation is optional). To get it started, I award a sarcastic "Bravo!" and a resounding "Booo!" to the Belarusian government where public applause is illegal and where a one-armed man was arrested for clapping. Speaking exclusively to Lexicolatry, an inexplicably cockney spokesperson for the Minsk police said: "This wos not an 'armless individual. In fact, you could say he wos a 'terror wrist." He then went on to blame Jews, socialists, Western liberalism and all the other usual excuses used to justify delusional and despotic regimes. Booooooo!

Have you ever been booed?

Who was the last person that you booed?

Please leave your most startlingly derisory comments below.


  1. A terror wrist? Ha ha ha ha.

    Does '"boo-hoo" count as a derivative of boo?

    1. Other than both being imitative, I don't think "boo" and "boohoo" share a common ... hang on ... this is Lexicolatry! I'm reading through the OED and here I am discussing words like boo and boohoo. Something isn't right here ...

  2. What about the kind of "boo" some guys call their girlfriends? It seems it might have a double meaning: "I love you but you suck, in a lame way".

    1. I think there's actually loads of different boos, but the good people of the OED haven't yet added the "Will you be my boo?"-type-boo into the dictionary. Booooo!

  3. It took me at least fifteen seconds to figure out why you selected that picture.

    1. Ha! I did consider a caption, but then I thought that would spoil it.