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5 comments on this post.
  1. Peadar Ó'Colmáin:

    Hello from Ireland. We’re very familiar with the word ‘Ballyhoo’ and it does sound like it has some connection with Ireland. The only reason I’m writing in is to say that there is actually a place in Ireland called ‘Ballyhoo’ and not just the similarly named ‘Ballyhooley’. If I were to throw in a little guess I’d say that it’s not really called after either of these places and that someone just made up the word and made it sound Irish.

  2. Doug Miller:

    Thanks, Peadar! I came here because I was just traveling in Unalaska, Alaska (don’t ask), and there we climbed Ballyhoo Mountain. No local explanation of the name. One of the biggest fishing ports in the world is there, so perhaps the nautical explanation. But I like the idea of “Irish-NESS” as an explanation. People love that sort of flavor. Or flavour.

  3. Greg a:

    According to Todd Robbins of Shocked and Amazed, ballyhoo originated during the World Columbia Exposition in 1893 the show talker trying to induce folks to come into his “Streets of Cairo” sideshow would have the dancers come out and do a small show. He overheard the foreign girls saying something like, “yallahoon” to each other when it was time. Not sure what they were saying he started saying to them, “do that ballyhoo thing.”. Others talkers began copying him and the rest is history.

  4. James K Graham:

    While there are many circus references, I haven’t seen it mentioned that the platform used for the person announcing the side show is actually called a bally. I learned this reading a very interesting book about circus life in Jim Crow America called ”Truevine.” So, which came first, ”bally” or ballyhoo?

  5. Alex Randall:

    Years ago I worked a business that traveled with carnivals. The carnival barkers used “bally” as a verb. “To Bally” as in “Bally up a crowd.”
    “It’s not busy, I better bally up some marks.”
    “I would bally in the crowd and she would take their money.”
    “I got me ballyin’ to do.”

    Perhaps ballyhoo descended from this use of bally. I wonder if ballyhoo is a descendant noun, as if ballyhoo is the stuff, or substance that one used to bally up a crowd. This would match with idea that the barker who was calling out the dancing girls considered their dance to be part of ballying in a crowd. He was standing on a bally, the job was to bally in the crowd and the stuff he said or showed was the ballyhoo…

    Bally Who?

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