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Origins of On On?

Where does “On On” come from? Who knows? The only thing I’m fairly certain of is that it didn’t come from hashing.

A few years ago I got into an argument with another hasher. He insisted it was a hasher who first came up with the “Drinking Club with a Running Problem” motto, sometime in the 1970s. I said I didn’t think so, because if you Google “drinking club with a ______ problem” you’ll find drinking clubs with mountain climbing problems, drinking clubs with bicycling problems, drinking clubs with yachting problems, and so on.

The earliest documented use I’ve found dates back to 1946. “A Drinking Club with a Motorcycle Problem” appears on the patch of an early outlaw motorcycle club, the Boozefighters MC (the bikers who raised hell in Hollister, California in 1947, inspiring the 1953 Marlon Brando movie The Wild One). If you can find a quote from G or Torch Bennett or Horse Thomson where they used the motto in the late 1930s or early 1940s, I’ll reconsider. But as far as I know we never called ourselves a drinking club with a running problem before the 1970s.

The other day, after I wrote about Hash Haven, the online support group for hashers dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts, members there had a long debate about what many of them see as a hurtful, politically incorrect, and exclusionary motto used by some hash kennels: “No Poofters.” That never originated in the hash; it came from the 1970 Monty Python Bruces sketch. In the heyday of Monty Python, a lot of hashers thought the no poofters refrain was funny, and somehow it morphed into an unofficial motto.

How about “Rule Number One Is There Are No Rules”? It’s possible a hasher first said it, but if you Google it you’ll find it’s a widely used phrase. Thomas Edison allegedly said something similar in 1903: “Hell, there are no rules here. We’re trying to accomplish something.”

Okay, back to “On On.” This morning Chippendale sent me some information on the Royal Air Force’s 272 Squadron, which flew anti-submarine patrols from Scotland in WWI and long range shipping escort missions in the Mediterranean during WWII, and whose motto was … well, you’ll never guess:

272 squadron

The plaques and patches I looked up all say On On, but the linked history of the squadron says it was actually On, On! (with an exclamation point, which is how many hashers say it as well). Looking at the symbol of the armored knight, I can’t help wondering if the phrase dates back even farther … possibly even to the Crusades?

There’s no point to any of this, other than to say that the hash knows a good thing when it sees it and isn’t ashamed to borrow when necessary. On, On!

© 2017, Flying Booger. All rights reserved.

About Flying Booger  Hash House Harrier, man about town.


11 comments to Origins of On On?

  • So, to add to this there may be a link to the whole “Keep Calm and ______” meems. The original is Keep Calm and Carry on”. This was British motivational and propaganda material that never made it into the mainstream during the war. It was popularized in the 70s when the art work was discovered in Britain. My point is that it’s a pretty common British expression to say “carry on!” or to “get on!” or “on, on!” meaning “get on with it” or “move forward”. My guess is that “On-On” has been with hashing for a long time and originated with British members (perhaps even the originals!). Maybe it just became more “mainstream” with the popularity of the “carry on” buzz in the 70s.

  • Sounds likely. Definitely a Britishism!

  • Oral sex

    found this really interesting. Had a book on hash history that I loved leant it out never to be seen again. Would like to purchase another good one any ideas on on oral

  • Probably a book called Hare of the Dog by a British ex-pat hasher who spent most of his career in Southeast Asia. I loved the book too, but I think it’s long out of print. Some of Magic’s old World HHH Handbook/Directories had extensive history sections, and those are treasures too.

  • silent

    The RAF motto may have been inspired by the English battle cry, ‘on on noblest English’ in Henry V, by Shakespeare.

  • I can get behind that. Shakespeare, wow!

  • I always loved the Bruce’s sketch and when I first started hashing realized that many of the first songs I learned were songs I already knew from Python. So, the sketch being co-opted for hashing wasn’t much of a surprise to me as well (plus, is it not the intro to the Bruce’s Philosophers song?)

    I understand the concern of political correctness in today’s society. But as a fan of comedy, Carlin said it best, “it’s just words… don’t be afraid of them.” Besides, the sketch was more poking fun at the stereotypical macho Aussie attitude and less at people that are gay.

    I realize this is a comment about a portion of your piece and not the entire topic, but had to throw in my two cents.

    Thanks again for shedding light on hash history.

  • Oral sex

    Shakes seems to be trying to put a book together would be good. A lot of newbies and sometimes the history is not getting through or just the basics.

  • I agree. I plan to write a post about it, to give it more publicity.

  • An unofficial hashing shrine because of the ON ON emblazoned thereupon (albeit only obliquely related to your post), the Carfax Conduit in Newnham Park, Nuneham Courtenay is worth trespassing to see: ,

    dr. Slow Ride recently posted…Castle, Holland Park, LondonMy Profile

  • Quite a nice contribution, Dr. SR. Thanks!

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