Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California.

What the word "ho" meant in old buildings in Phoenix

You will see the word "Ho" on many old buildings around Phoenix. Examples would be the Westward Ho in Phoenix, the Valley Ho in Scottsdale, and before it was demolished, the Superstition Ho in Apache Junction.

If you're about my age, the word "ho" will remind you of a comedy skit that Eddie Murphy did on Saturday Night Live in the 1980s, which made the word "ho" what most people recognize today, a shortened version of the word "Whore", which is a prostitute. Of course, the name of the Westward Ho, Valley Ho, and Superstition Ho had nothing to do with that. It had to do with an old-time phrase that indicated that there was a good destination ahead, and proceeding there would be a good thing.

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Sailors would shout "Land ho!" when they saw land. Leaders of wagon trains would just shout "Ho" to get everyone moving. If your wagon train were to go west, the leader would shout something like "Westward Ho!". The ho, by the way, would be emphasized and stretched out with a very long o.

Of course, the language changes over the years, and if becomes confusing. So if you're stuck in the world of Eddie Murphy's "ho", I recommend that you find an old western movie, maybe something with wagon trains, and you'll hear the word ho as it used to be used.


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