The origins of "hi hi"

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by KC2SIZ, Sep 22, 2019.

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  1. KC2SIZ

    KC2SIZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Every now and then the subject comes up: What does "hi hi" mean and how did it originate?

    Here's the answer I find on the web and it is basically what I always hear:

    "It is ham radio laughter. HIHI, sometimes HI, other other times HIHI. It's origins are in CW (aka Morse Code), not voice. In fact, I believe old-timers might think it is silly to say HiHi or something on SSB or other voice comms when you can merely laugh if something is funny.

    But, with Morse Code, laughter is not in the alphabet so HIHI gets the job.

    In Morse code, this is "di-di-di-di di-di di-di-di-di di-di" -- and the pattern is supposed to vaguely sound like laughter (I think very vaguely)."

    Maybe. Okay, maybe this is the correct explanation. However, I am unconvinced. I am unconvinced because "hi hi" in code doesn't really sound like laughter. I also have another, I think better, explanation to offer.

    My explanation is this: "Hi hi" is not, in fact, "hi hi" at all. In reality, it began as "hee hee", but the impatient sending fist, not wanting to put proper spacing between the two e's in "hee", runs them together so that they sound like an 'i'. Before you know it, people start thinking that what's really being sent is "hi hi", and so that's what they begin sending. Eventually then people begin asking, "What does "hi hi" mean?

    And here we are. Hee hee!
    KB3FEI, W5BIB, K8MHZ and 2 others like this.
  2. WG7X

    WG7X Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I used to think the same thing.

    Then one time a friend and I were experimenting with high speed CW (sent by computer) at speeds between 40 and 60 WPM. At those speeds Hi HI does really sound like giggling. Also sounds like RTTY...
  3. WR2E

    WR2E Ham Member QRZ Page

    Maybe they're laughing so hard they tried and couldn't send "HA HA" correctly?
    KC2SIZ likes this.
  4. KC2SIZ

    KC2SIZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Perhaps, but when "hi hi" came into being people were using straight keys and such. No one was operating at 60 wpm in those days!
  5. K5TSK

    K5TSK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    As others have inferred, at it's best, it's onomatopoeic. Surely you all have heard someone laugh 'He he he he'.

    Hearing 'Haw' some these days, but that's also onomatopoeic. Just harder to send. Whatever the speed.

    and yes, on SSB it just sounds silly.
  6. KA9JLM

    KA9JLM Ham Member QRZ Page

    It has been replaced with lol
    M6GYU likes this.
  7. W7UUU

    W7UUU Super Moderator Lifetime Member 133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    It's not "HI HI" it's H E E as in Heeeheee (laughter).

    When sent it's not .... .. .. it's sent literally as .... . . which is H E E (dit dit dit dit dit dit)

    that's how I was taught anyway... and how I've sent it for 45 years

    W5BIB likes this.
  8. KJ4VTH

    KJ4VTH Ham Member QRZ Page

    HA sounds more like laughter to my ears than HI or HEE.
  9. K5TSK

    K5TSK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yup, at its best. May not be legal, but I vary the spacing on my E spacing from time to time even in the same QSO.
    Funny, in my way of thinking, when I see 'hi' in print, I think of the group representation of 'code laughter' which like different mixes of the same brand of coffee, include all the ways of sending 'hi'.
    On cw, you can hear it sent many different ways, but I usually know what they mean. That's the difference between machine copy and the old way.
    Going to be hard for a machine to duplicate all the intricacies of human thought. On a side note, in 20 years, I doubt CW will be worth listening to. Thanks to digital.

    BTW, Ha works as well, but I personally have never heard it sent that way. See y'all later.
  10. WB5YUZ

    WB5YUZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I respect Dave a great deal, and I'm not interested in starting an internet flame war or similar. Dave puts a lot of time in on these boards and I appreciate it.

    In addition, his advice is usually better than mine.

    Finally, I'm sure HEE is what his Elmer or CW course instructor taught him. It's certainly a perfectly correct way to express laugher on CW.

    However, in the Frank Jones Radio Handbook of 1936, on page 284, you will find a table of common CW abbreviations. Most handbooks had these. In the Jones Handbook, HI is defined as meaning either "laughter" or "high" (printed as "laughter-high").

    In the 27th Edition of the ARRL Handbook, from 1950 there is a similar table on page 550. For HI it gives, "The telegraphic laugh; high."

    In the Frederick Collins/Bob Hertzberg "Radio Amateurs Handbook," published by Harper Collins in 1964, the table starts on page 272, and on page 273 defines HI as "the telegraphic laugh."

    The most recently compiled table I can find for common telegraphic abbreviations is from Hertzberg's SAMS paperback, "So You Want to be a Ham," published at the height of the CB craze in 1974. The table begins on page 135 and on page 136, for the entry HI, gives the following: "This is not a greeting, like, 'Hi, there!' but is best described as a Morse laugh. It's a short way of expressing amusement." (At the top of the table of abbreviations, Herzberg included the note, "If an unknown one is thrown at you, don't hesitate to ask the other operator to switch to English!" Advice as sound for the newcomer today as it was in 1974.)

    My most recent handbook, the ARRL Sixty-eighth Edition from 1991, gives the same definition of HI as the 1950 edition. Apparently they did not compile a new table in the intervening years!

    Finally, in my own vanished Novice days, many of us used both HEE and HI. So both have been common a long time.

    To sum up, I'm not sure we can know which came first, or what the true origin of HI was; but I am very sure its use dates back to at least the 1930s, because I have a source document that demonstrates this. In addition, I have source documents that demonstrate the use of HI was common throughout the Morse era of ham radio, right up through the 1990s.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019

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