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View Full Version : "Harry Clampers" ... eh, what?


Airist
11th Oct 2008, 17:08
Apologies if this has come up before, but does anyone know the origin of the term "Harry Clampers" for a thick fog / carp vis? The question came up in a group of varying ages and backgrounds and no-one had a clue. A quick Google suggests it's almost certainly an RAF expression, but produced nothing more than that.

Thanks, all.

J.A.F.O.
11th Oct 2008, 20:03
Harry is attached to many things in the forces. Harry Staish is the Station Commander, Harry Black is black gaffer tape. Harry clampers is when the weather has clamped in and you can't get out.

Airist
12th Oct 2008, 09:41
Thanks, AB. But my question wasn't what the expressions mean, but whether anyone knows their origins or earliest use.

teeteringhead
13th Oct 2008, 22:11
The slang/cant use of -er at the end of a word (or a slight modification of the word) was known as the "Oxford -er" so may well have its origins at the University. "Harry" is a euphemistic intensive, rather like "flipping", "ruddy" or "blooming" to avoid naughty words ..... which is why one doesn't hear many of them these days :(

I remember hearing "Harry Preggers" for pregnant in my youth, and I'm sure I've read "wagger pagger bagger" for wpb (waste paper basket) somewhere - Wodehouse maybe. And of course "rugger" and "soccer" have that origin too

I'll see if I can find reference for the "Oxford er"

[edited to add]

For once, Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_%22-er%22)seems correct and informative....

Airist
14th Oct 2008, 01:02
Thanks, TH. That's extremely helpful.

FlightlessParrot
14th Oct 2008, 08:28
Paul Beale, in _A Concise Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English_, edited from _A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English_ by Eric Partridge (London: Routledge, 1989; ISBN 0-415-02807 (hardback--it's also available in paper)), has a quite long article in his Appendix on "HARRY as a meaningless prefix" (p.525). The gist whereof is that he takes it as originally RN usage, starting from a slang expression "to drink at [Henry] Freeman's quay." By some route it got to be attached to other terms, always with the '-ers' stuck on the end, so he quotes a description of the English Channel off Dunkirk in 1940 as Harry flatters. He also notes the extension of the expression from the services to the "young, smart set" in the late '50s. I recollect that at University, when I was wasting my time rowing rather ineffectually about 1963-4, the college First VIII had a call for a spurt of "Harry clappers, chappers" which, to tell the truth, the rest of us thought was a bit OTT.

Speaking of wasting time, Beale's revision of Partridge is a wonderful book to get lost in. In the appendix, he also has a pretty full account of the "Oxford -er," which apparently started at Rugby School. :8

Dick Whittingham
14th Oct 2008, 09:52
Teeteringhead brings in an example of the "eggy peggy" language in which, by adding "eggy" to each syllable "electricity" becomes "eggy leggy treggy ceggy teggy" Or something like that. Your skill, or not, at this could decide your status in the school yard

Dick

mustpost
14th Oct 2008, 11:18
could decide your status in the school yard

Indeed it did, albeit in Scotland I remember it as 'ig' language...

Taff Missed
14th Oct 2008, 20:47
I believe it probably originated in the FEAF many years ago. 'Hari' is Malay and Indonesian for 'day'. If the weather was bad, or 'clamped', the day was 'hari clampers'.

Taff

J.A.F.O.
14th Oct 2008, 22:50
YouTube - Monty Python RAF Banter (http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=5rKYL0tW-Ek)

virgo
15th Oct 2008, 15:28
"Clamping" used to be the original term (1903 onward) for picketing or tying an aircraft down when not in use - to stop it blowing away.

If the weather was foggy, the aircraft would all be "clamped".

The "harry" is a corruption of "Hoorah" or "hooray" which would precede the "Clampers" because we could all go back to the bar or pub.

Riverboat
19th Oct 2008, 13:07
Brilliant thread! About time we had something intelligent to read. I wonder if "hari" is really where Harry comes from - makes sense.