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Does Chris Matthews Really Get to Claim Credit for "Ha"?

Peter Funt, who "can be reached at," has built a career on his sirname's reputation for trying to pull the modestly amusing out of the banally amusing. Perhaps, then, he's best suited to explain the power behind one simple little expression of comedic acknowledgment: "Ha."

"Thanks to Chris Matthews, the engaging yet often bombastic host of Hardball on MSNBC, this laughable little term has popped into the media lexicon. Every time Matthews shouts 'Ha!' his guests seem genuinely startled, much as they would if the host inadvertently let out a loud belch."

But does Matthews really get to own "ha"?

Writes Funt:

I never paid much attention to the word "ha" until a few weeks ago when I sent a column to an editor at the Chicago Tribune, and she e-mailed back, "Ha!" ??? which I took to mean she liked it.

Then I sent the piece to a friend in Massachusetts and, believe it or not, his feedback also began, "Ha!" And the thing is, the column never even mentioned Chris Matthews.

For years when Matthews let out a "Ha!" it appeared in MSNBC's transcripts only as "(laughter)." Nowadays the transcripts actually say: "MATTHEWS: Ha!"

When Pennsylvania Rep. Jack Murtha was a guest, Matthews used it to cut him off in mid-sentence. That's when I realized he has perfected more than one "Ha!" There's the genuine-laugh "Ha!"; the fake-laugh "Ha!"; plus the wait-just-a-darn-minute "Ha!" ??? the one he used on Murtha.

I'm not suggesting Matthews has the social influence of, say, "Seinfeld," which taught many of us to say, "yada, yada, yada." But as the campaign drags on through the summer, I imagine you'll be hearing "Ha!" with surprising frequency.

Some might argue, however, that it was Nelson, from The Simpsons, that popularized "ha." Except Nelson's trademark is "ha ha," and it's that double-upping of the term that changes its meaning. So, fine, Matthews gets "ha." But "ha ha" will always belong to Matt Groening.

Comments (2)
No. 1 · "Franko"

Actually, I claim full credit on this one - HA! (no…seriously…I do)

Posted: Jul 11, 2008 at 3:43 pm · @Reply · [Flag?]
No. 2 · p.r. geertsma

Sirname? You must mean surname. Nice try, but no cigar.

Posted: Aug 7, 2008 at 3:11 pm · @Reply · [Flag?]
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