Ole Miss Notes from the Past
Are You Ready?
By Gerald W. Walton
I came to Ole Miss as a graduate student in 1956 and never left. I have been interested in the history of this magnificent place for well over half a century and am pleased that Ed Meek has asked me to write some “Ole Miss Notes from the Past” essays in Hotty Toddy News. I hope readers will find at least some of them of interest.
Perhaps we should start with the word. No one seems to know exactly when “Hotty Toddy” was first used, and it has no definition as such. It is part of a cheer, but it means more than something like “Go, Rebels”! It identifies people as being from Ole Miss. It might mean nothing to a resident of Connecticut who graduated from Yale, but it means a great deal to an Ole Miss grad—whether a sign in a Kroger store in Oxford or on a bumper sticker or on a Christmas tree ornament. Or where else might there be hotty toddy potties? When I signed copies of my pictorial history of the University, I was surprised at the number of people who asked me to sign “Hotty Toddy” (and there are a few, like Sparky, who spell it “Hotty Totty”).
There are numerous stories of people seeing strangers in distant places and yelling “Hotty Toddy” if something suggests that the person is another Ole Miss grad. I have heard it in Paris, London, New York, and Washington. One person has written: “Some think that it is a cheer. How demeaning! Yes, the cheerleaders sing and chant it for every athletic event that is remotely connected to the university, but to say that it is simply a cheer is a dramatic dismissal of its power as an incantation. … It is an absolute, a universal. What does it mean? This is a question that is so superfluous that one is tempted not to answer.” When Eli was asked to explain it, he said, “it just means you’re an Ole Miss fan too.”
We can at least ask how we got it. But no one seems to know for sure when it was first used. Most people assume it came from hoity-toity, a French word meaning something like “show off.” There are stories about cowbell-ringing Mississippi State alumni who considered Ole Miss people Hoity-Toitys.
At some point, and in a number of places, Hoity Toidy became Highty Tighty. A Virginia Tech band is called the Highty Tighties. It is believed that the name came from a cheer while the band was located in Division E of Lane Hall. The cheer was:
Who the hell are we?
Riff ramm, goddamn,
We’re from Division E.
There is even a http://www.hightytightyalumni.org/ website for Virginia Tech.
There are numerous similar cheers, including those for sororities and fraternities, such as this one:
Who the hell am I?
Flim Flam, Hot Damn
I’m an Alpha Chi.
Many associate the cheer with one used during World War II. Battle Cry and Band of Brothers contained versions of:
Who the hell are we?
Zim Zam, god damn,
We’re airborne infantry
“Highty Tighty” was often spelled or pronounced in other ways, such as “Hidey-Tidey. It is assumed that “Highty-Tighty” became “Hoddy Toddy” because of the association of cheers with a warm alcoholic drink, often a nightcap.
No one knows exactly when “Highty-Tighty” became Hoddy Toddy at Ole Miss. The November 19, 1926, student newspaper The Mississippian carried this:
And in 1931 Ole Miss music professor Aileen H. Tye wrote a song entitled “Ole Miss.” It begins “Oh, cheer, boys! Cheer for Mississippi.” The first line of the chorus is
Hi-ty, Ti-ty, Gosh a Might-y, Who in the hell are we?
The next line, however, is
Oh, We come Mississippi, from Mississippi, Ole Miss, Ole Miss,” with none of the remainder of the 1926 version or the current version.
At any rate, we know that all readers will agree that Ed Meek has chosen an appropriate title for this website and that it will be enjoyed by many.