Fillers

WHEN I USE A WORD

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7068.1326 (Published 23 November 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1326
  1. JEFF ARONSON

    Hiccup

    Do hiccups, asked a questioner recently in New Scientist, have any function? Well, their physiological role is not known, but their etymology is. It is onomatopoeic. Preceded by the French form hoquet, the word was originally spelled hiquet, hicket, hickot, hickock, or even hitchcock (unrelated to the surname Hitchcock, which means nothing more than “little Richard”). By the late 16th century “hiccup” was the established spelling. However, hiccup was also known as a drunken man's cough, and so in the 17th century it became “hiccough,” without a change in pronunciation. That spelling became so prevalent that in …

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