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This is about the idiom "Hear(!)(,)Hear(!)" (1680s) used (ngram) to express approval during a speech for instance (AHDotEL, Collins, Cambridge, Century, Merriam Learners, Dictionary.com). It can be seen in both the BrE and AmE corpus, seemingly more in the former. Two of those sources label or showcase the idiom in some way as BrE (Collins En-Fr, Dictionary.com, above) which strikes me as I had never considered this from the English language variety angle.


  • So are there any American English variations on this idiom?
  • And is the word from the same register in both varieties?
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    I'm aware of an Illiterate English variant, "*here here", but other than that, nothing special. It's perhaps less common in AmE than BrE, but otherwise I believe they're fairly similar. – Nathan Tuggy Oct 25 '15 at 21:08
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    Here in the States you're more likely to hear "Amen!" rather than "hear, hear". Or, perhaps, "I'll drink to that!"... – Victor Bazarov Oct 26 '15 at 0:59
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    I agree with @VictorBazarov that "Amen" would be the best AmE alternative to "Hear, Hear!" IMO, "Amen!" alone would best maintain the "formal" register of "Hear, Hear!" and in the right setting/context, you could even add "Brother" or "Sister" to it and still maintain its formal register. For a more familiar/informal register/context/setting (albeit perhaps dated to the extent that language from the 60s might be dated for some), there's also "Right on!", which again depending on the context could be followed with "Brother" or "Sister." – Papa Poule Oct 26 '15 at 15:21
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    @PapaPoule Amen, brother! – Wolfie Inu Oct 27 '15 at 8:47
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When I think of “Hear!, Hear!”, I picture powdered-wigged men, from whatever place/time where/when such wigs were/(are still) in fashion, responding with strong approval to something just said, be it a radically new political viewpoint or an announcement that Mozart’s latest/(Final) piano concerto was about to be performed.

Fast-forward to your question and then -backward (slightly) to 1968, when I was an adolescent watching “Wild in the Streets” for the first time (cf: please ctrl-F to find the reviewer’s 2014 use of “right on baby and amen brother” way down just above the bolded “The extreme left as the extreme right” sub-section) (from a ‘Rather Rare Records' 2014 review of the film “Wild in the Streets” [in turn from Wikipedia]):

When I think of “Right on, [baby/Brother/Sister]!” and “Amen, [Brother/Sister]!” ("Amen" lifted from Victor Bazarov's good comment), I picture long-/high-haired social warriors, of either gender, responding with approval to something just said, be it a radically new political viewpoint or an announcement that Hendrix was backstage and just about ready to perform.

With the warning/disclaimer that I am often ‘accused’ of being “stuck in the 60s” (unfortunately along with my principal reference, cited above, for this answer), I feel that “Amen!” and “Right on!” are still valid and relevant alternatives to “Hear!, Hear!” today.

(please note that, depending on the context, “Groovy” also worked back then as an alternative, but even I am not stuck "back then" quite enough to dare suggest that here)

Of the two, I feel that “Amen {to that}” most closely maintains the formal register of “Hear!, Hear!” when “[u]sed to express agreement or assent.” [Oxford’s def 1.1].
I say this because: 1) Oxford is silent as to the formal/informal nature this use/definition and 2) “Amen” comes from the formal setting of religion, where it was and still is uttered during sermons to express approval, sometimes in response to “Can I get an ‘Amen’?” but also spontaneously (just as “Hear!, Hear!” would be spontaneously uttered in non-religious settings) (cf: Oxford’s position that [def 1] ‘Amen” = “so be it” said after prayers/hymns).

With no references to offer, I would suggest that the use of “Amen [to that]” outside of places of worship would not be viewed as sacrilegious (unless said with obvious sarcastic contempt to a person of faith) nor would it require that the speaker and responder share religious convictions (unless, I suppose, it were ever uttered at a get-together of atheists!).

On the other hand, Oxford clearly marks “Right on” (without the derogatory hyphen) as an “Informal … expression of strong support, approval, or encouragement.” (btw, re the hyphenated Oxford entry, I’ve never heard, or at least never taken “right[-]on,” however written, as derogatory [oh the naiveté of Hippies!])

Touching quickly (and again without references) on the effect of adding "baby/Sister/Brother" to either "Right on" or "Amen [to that]," I feel that any of these added to "Right on" would render it more forceful, yet even less formal/more informal.

With "Amen [to that]," again any of those three additions would render it more emphatic, but I feel that adding "Brother" or "Sister" to it would not reduce its suitability for formal contexts.

Adding "baby" to "Amen [to that]" would, however, in my opinion make it inappropriate for formal settings.

(please note: I don't see the use of "baby" here as sexist language [if I did (or am convinced otherwise) I would certainly find its addition to either "Right on" or "Amen" totally inappropriate regardless of the register]. I equate, perhaps incorrectly, the use of "baby" with these two expressions of agreement/encouragement with its use in other forms of encouragement, e.g., "Burn/Run/Go Baby Burn/Run/Go," which I interpret as encouraging a gender-less event/"happening"/idea or even a person of either gender)

  • Thank you! It really answers the questions I might have had about using "amen" in particular, and provides context. So I hear you. As you put it carefully, it's possible for someone to have a different opinion of right on and amen, etc. Further answers can be added. You also discussed "to that", which is something I had in mind i.e. "cheers to that". It was all very insightful, thanks! – user16335 Oct 29 '15 at 21:22

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