Have you ever been watching a football game & wondered why the quarterback yells “hut” or “hike” just before starting a play?
“Hut” descends from the military. In the service, “hut” often replaces a syllable in a word to make it sharper & more distinct. Think about a drill sergeant screaming “atten-hut!” at cadets. It seems to focus the hearer, which can be particularly beneficial whether you’re gearing up for a strenuous march or you’re in danger of being squashed by a 300-pound lineman.
Hut originated during World War II, and was adopted in the 1950s by football players. Because a lot of players & coaches were former soldiers, it makes the word’s evolution fairly easy to plot. “Hut” is a clean, concise word that can be barked across distances, which helps quarterbacks who need to be heard.
So, where did the military get “hut” from? Animal herders. Words like “hip”, “hup”, and “hep” date back centuries; “hup” was in use in the early 18th century, and “hut” in the 19th century. The military adopted their own variations early in the 20th century before they ultimately settled on “hut”.
That other football staple, “hike”, comes from football legend John Heisman, who started shouting it to avoid being tricked during the 1890-1891 season when he played for the University of Pennsylvania. As the center responsible for snapping the ball to the quarterback, he usually got scratched on his leg as a signal to start the play. But, when an opposing player nefariously touched his leg & made him flip the ball, it made him mess up. So, saying “hike” (which means to pull or raise with a sudden motion) eliminated any leg-rubbing deception.
Other terms, like “blue 42”, are alternate signals meant to change up an offensive play or confuse the opposing team in the hope of scoring. And, while there still may be a lot of confusing things about football, at least why they say “hike” & “hut” isn’t anymore.
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